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12 Tips to Survive Nutcracker Season [with Printable Countdown]

It’s that time of year again… Nutcracker season (cue imaginary Overture playing its merry little tune in your head).

It’s the time of year when Ballet companies stocking-stuff their schedules as full as is humanly possible with this wonderfully magical ballet. Nutcracker is an almost universal holiday staple, punctuating the ballet year, strung like fairy lights all across the December calendar.

Right now, right the way around this globe of ours, Spanish, Chinese and Arabian roles are being rehearsed. Studios are wafting with dancing candy canes, waltzing flowers and spinning sugar plums.

[pullquote position=”right”]Like an unofficial rite of passage, Nutcracker season initiates new company members into the heart of life as a dancer.[/pullquote]


…Perhaps this is your first year and you are spending the best part of the silly season sitting on the sidelines, learning the places of 5 different snow flakes and your heart might just melt if you could be on stage yourself in this beautiful ballet…

…Perhaps you are a seasoned Nutcracker-er, juggling so many different roles in so many different casts that you can’t even remember if you’re dancing the Rat King or the Snow Queen tonight…

…Or maybe, you have cracked one-too-many a nut and have had all the magic drained out, so that it just feels like you’re going through the motions evening after matinee, day after day, year after year…

So how do you keep on keeping on in the relentless repetition of Nutcracker season?

I’m so glad you asked 😉

Here are 12 tips to help get you through!

Be present, in the moment

There is something about over-familiarity that can reduce your sense of challenge and fulfillment in your work. To avoid zoning out and just riding the Merleton Merry-go-round, tune in to your performance: this very show, this very step, this very moment. As Jim Elliot has said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

This one’s for my Great Aunt Carol!

To help maintain a unique sense of purpose, joy and inspiration for each performance, pick someone in the audience, a family member or someone you love and dance just for them.

Stay in your body

Whether you’re anxious about being thrown in at the last minute or debuting in a new role, avoid going blank and fumbling on stage by bringing your focus out of your racing thoughts and back into your body. Ground yourself by pressing your feet down into the soles of your shoes, feel the power in your core and the breadth across your shoulders.

Let Go!

One of the best side-effects of repetition is that you get to know the choreography so well, you don’t have to think so much about steps and can devote more of your precious attention to your artistry and Nutcracker’s wonderful character roles. So really let yourself go, get into it!

Interpretation inspiration

Whether you’re understudying a role, sitting in the wings or feeling stale in your own portrayal, watch another cast (or company, or version of Nutcracker on Youtube) and glean what you can from a different interpretation. Incorporate a new accent here or there, a mood, a look. Keep it fresh and stay inspired!

Protect your Rest

When your shows are back-to-back and you don’t have the luxury of much down-time, guard your rest time like the crown jewels. [pullquote position=”right”]To get through this Nutcracker season you need to get really good at listening to your body, respecting and protecting it.[/pullquote]

Give your feet the Ice Bucket Challenge

Yes, I think we all got wet at some point this year for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge! Now it’s your feet’s turn. A 5-10 min cold water bath after performance will help your muscles recover for the next show, and the next, and the next…

5-minute full body Relaxation

When you have no time to relax but you’re super tired, take 5 minutes to calm and focus yourself with a relaxation exercise. If you’d like to unwind to the sound of my incredibly soothing voice 😉 go grab my 5-min Body Scan, part of Stress Less, Dance Better, it’s free!

Create an Oasis of Comfort and Joy

In the midst of all the Nutcracker madness, create for yourself a space where you can really get cosy and relaxed, a space with a few of your favourite things. Maybe a cushiony corner in your changeroom, Christmas carols and tinsel, or just plain old white. space. to clear your mind – whatever will be an oasis and respite for YOU.

Be inspiring

When it gets to that 17th show in a row and it feels like the whole company hits a slump, what can you do to inspire, even just one other person? It might be your attitude, your frame-of-mind, your sense of humour, your commitment, your genuineness, your calm perspective… rather than being someone who pulls the atmosphere down, lift it up.

Make memories

Although you may not be thinking of this at the moment, one day you will eventually dance your final Nutcracker and all of this will become sweet nostalgia. So, enjoy creating those memories, make them good ones!

Creative Relief

When you feel like you might just go insane if you hear this music and dance this piece one more time – go crazy with your creativity and a bit of humour (it might just keep you sane!). How many triangle chimes can you hear? How many words can you make from the word Nutcracker? How would the Parents dance look in reverse?

Countdown your performances (free printable for you!)

Acknowledge your achievement and get excited about what is coming up next (yes, this season will end!) by counting down your performances. I’ve made a little Nutcracker Countdown Calendar for your last 12 shows! Grab it, print it, string it up and enjoy ripping each day off.

And if all else fails…

Give me a call, we can talk it through! 😉 No, seriously, I’m here if you need it!

If you have any other survival tips, please share them with us in the comments!

Let Nutcracker Season begin (…or continue if you already started!)

🙂 Philippa

photo credit: nosha cc




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