A Snow Queen
by Tanya Howard
In the snow scene, the Snow Queen dances with two Icicles. What are the challenges of dancing a pas de trois versus a more traditional pas de deux?
It’s literally the addition of two more hands! Dancing with two partners instead of one requires a lot more coordination. The challenge is knowing when to work and taking turns in the machine to make it all go ‘round.
How many pairs of Icicles do you have this year?
This year, I only have one set of partners but it’s still early in the season! When a run of The Nutcracker is close to 30 performances over almost a month, anything can happen. The most I’ve ever had was three different pairs of Icicles for a single run of The Nutcracker.
What makes the snow scene so special?
The moment the curtain opens on the snow scene can be so magical. It’s the transition between the fairly chaotic battle scene and then this absolutely serene moment where the Snow Trio appears – it’s the single best moment onstage. I can feel the audience experiencing that moment with me as they’ve just gone through the same thing – going to another realm and from chaos to serenity.
You’ve been performing in The Nutcracker as the Snow Queen since 2003. Have you had any onstage mishaps?
At every performance, streamers come out of the cannon in the battle scene and it’s the responsibility of the Cannon Doll to sweep them up before the snow scene. Sometimes the streamers don’t get completely cleaned up – I once did my entire solo with a pink streamer wrapped around my ankle!
The Snow Queen often performs a second role in Act II of The Nutcracker. What other roles do you perform and how do you switch modes?
It’s very typical and standard issue of The Nutcracker that we all do multiple roles, so it is a bit of a reflex. Everyone is in that mindset and are used to seeing maybe three costumes by their spot at the top of the show. After performing as the Snow Queen in Act I, I tend to dance Arabian Coffee or Flowers in Act II. Coffee is quite slow, which is a nice transition from snow, and Yellow Flowers is towards the end of Act II, so I get a bit of a break. That’s kind of the magic of what we do – somehow you’re always prepped for the next thing. We are also driven by the music – you get swept up in the Waltz of the Flowers, for example, and quickly forget that you’ve done another role.
Your daughter Lia is performing in The Nutcracker as a lamb for the third time this year – how is The Nutcracker part of your family’s holiday tradition?
Yes, we have a couple of shows together! It’s kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s become such a natural thing for me to see her backstage. I love it and I love it more knowing how much she loves it. My son Ben does not want to be a Baby Mouse, though – he’s far more interested in the horse and the mechanical rat. My kids love when I perform the Bee because I get to wear a mask and they really love the snow scene, of course!
The Nutcracker is onstage December 8 – 30, 2018.