It's hard to imagine Toronto over the holidays without The Nutcracker. From the costumes to the music, the choreography and the beautiful staging in the Four Seasons Centre; Toronto's longstanding tradition of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet makes us so gleeful we might just turn into a Sugar Plum Fairy! Adding to our excitement? The National Ballet's Principal Dancer, Heather Ogden, stopped by to chat with us about all things Nutcracker.
Drake: Hi Heather! So, Toronto has had a longstanding love for The Nutcracker and The National Ballet. Can you tell us what can people expect from this year’s performance?
Heather Ogden:In my opinion, we have one of the best Nutcracker's in the world. We have been doing the same version since it was created in 1995 and there are still things that I notice that I haven't seen before. We have a huge number of the talented students from Canada's National Ballet School onstage with us which adds to the action and excitement along with the full National Ballet company. I think people can expect to come out from the show feeling the magic of Christmas. I know I do.
D: Which scene is your greatest challenge? Which do you enjoy dancing the most?
HO: The most challenging scene for me is the first solo of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It is a spectacular build up with a giant golden Faberge egg opening up to reveal the Sugar Plum Fairy standing on pointe, much like a ballerina in a jewelry box. All eyes are on me as I step out of the egg to do a solo. It is a fast and precise solo and it is always a challenge to make all the steps look as light and airy as they should be for a fairy! The part I like dancing the most is the pas de deux with the Nutcracker prince. It is a beautiful part and a love story which is nice because I dance this part with my husband Guillaume Côté!
D: What’s your first memory of The Nutcracker?
HO: I didn't grow up watching The Nutcracker so my first memory of it was when I joined the company. I was in awe the National Ballet's beautiful production and loved dancing in the snow scene!
D: The Toronto Arts scene is so important to us at Drake. What are the ways that the Arts in our city and the National Ballet make you proud to be in our great city?
HO: One of the most attractive things about living in a big city is that there is lots of exposure to the arts. I am proud of the arts scene we have here in Toronto, from the ballet to the opera and all the amazing small galleries, not to mention the great theatre scene; I try to get out and see as much as I can. It's so nice to know how much Toronto treasures a company like The National Ballet of Canada and that we are able to continue to share our passion and hopefully enrich other peoples lives too.
D: Not including The Nutcracker itself, what’s your favourite Holiday tradition?
HO: My favourite holiday tradition is a party with my family on Christmas Eve. December 24th is also my birthday so it's so nice to be with everyone and celebrate the two occasions.
D: That's so nice! At Drake, we have some favourite Holiday food and cocktails. What gets served at your Christmas Eve birthday party or around the holidays at the Ogden/Côté house?
HO: At Christmas time, I always get out some of my mom's recipes and do my Christmas baking. This year I made sugar cookies and some different squares. My family does a pretty traditional dinner and I always look forward to the turkey and my grandmother's stuffing!
D: What are you hoping Santa brings you this year?
HO: I already know that Santa is bringing me a trip to St. Martin... but if there's room in his bag I would love a Soda Stream!
D: Could you share with us an all-time favourite holiday memory?
HO: My favourite holiday memory is waking up on Christmas morning with my brother. We would wake up at a ridiculous hour and run to the top of the stairs to see if we could see our Santa gift (there was always one unwrapped gift). After that, I would try to stall and distract my brother since we always had to wait until our parents woke up to open our gifts. I just remember being so excited... it still make me smile.
D: Do you have a resolution for the New Year?
HO: My resolution is to arrive at the studio a little bit earlier to do a better warm up before rehearsals. I'm sure my body will appreciate it!
D: Thanks Heather, happy holidays!
If, like us, you're excited to see Heather and the Mouse King do their ballet thing, catch them onstage in The Nutcracker before performances end on January 3rd.
Image: Heather Ogden in The Nutcracker. Photo by Bruce Zinger.