Behind the Scenes at Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker

Among the things we learned: Ballerinas can bench more than you.
Photography by Dana Smith

It’s the night of rehearsal at Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The popular Christmas show looks effortless in its execution, but is actually a product of hours of training. Ballerinas warm up on stage, limbering their bodies for a taxing rehearsal. Among them is Jordan Nelson, whose long, untamed hair and tough demeanor make him a modern James Dean. He wants you to know that ballerinas are not wimps. “I like going to the gym to see beefcake bros trying to put up numbers. I can outset anything they do. They have twig legs and I can leg press more than they could imagine,” he says. “Guys at the gym say ‘leg day is the worst.’ Every day is leg day for me. My life is leg day.”

Even with the soundtrack stuck in their heads (along with visions of sugar plums, we’re sure) and pain in their limbs, it’s all worth it for these ballerinas. The Nutcracker is glorious.