Preparation, Pasta, and Pointe Shoes: A Day in the Nutcracker Life of Two SF Ballet Dancers

Ever wondered what it’s like to perform in Nutcracker? Here’s everything that two of our SF Ballet dancers do in a two-show day.

11 am
11:30 am
1:30 pm
2 pm
5 pm
7 pm
9:30 pm
11 am

Esteban Hernandez on his morning commute. (© Olivia Ramsay)

Every morning, Esteban commutes from Laurel Heights on his green Vespa, which he purchased right after Nutcracker season in 2014. He feels it’s the best way to get around San Francisco since the city is fairly small. Before a busy performance day, he tries not to think too much about dancing until he gets to the theater.

11:30 am

Company members in the War Memorial Opera House. (© Olivia Ramsay)

Company class usually takes place in the Harold Christensen Studio in the ballet building, but during Nutcracker it is often held onstage in the War Memorial Opera House. Miranda stays calm and warms up her entire body in preparation for the day ahead. She thinks about how her body feels and mentally picks out a pair of pointe shoes to wear for the day’s performances. Esteban places himself at his regular spot—at the last bar in the back of the theater—and makes sure he activates every part of his body as best as he can. He says, “Company class is the best preparation for any role, any performance.”

1:30 pm

Miranda Silveira applies makeup. (© Olivia Ramsay)

Miranda carefully pulls her hair into a bun as she prepares for her transformation into a Snowflake. She has also been cast as a Spanish dancer, a French Mirliton, Flower, and Gertrude, the “mean” maid in Nutcracker. She says, “As you know, I’m from Spain so I really enjoy performing the Spanish dance. I’ve taken Flamenco since a young age, and it’s fun to show that side of me.”

2 pm

Miranda Silveira prepares to go onstage. (© Olivia Ramsay)

As one of the Snowflakes, Miranda dances during a blizzard of theatrical snow at the end of Act I. She notes that it can be difficult to perform during all that snow, but she always looks forward to the climax when the music picks up and the snow flurries become a blizzard. After the Snow scene, she’ll quickly change into her French Mirliton costume for the Act II divertissements. “Twirling the ribbons while dancing is a challenge, but this role is another one of my favorites!”

5 pm

Between the two shows, Esteban runs over to a local restaurant for a meal. He also takes a 45-minute nap at the Ballet building so he’s well rested before another round of Russian dances.

In the women’s dressing rooms, Miranda eats a bowl of pasta: “I find that it gives me the right kind of energy before a performance.”

7 pm

Esteban Hernandez stretches backstage. (© Olivia Ramsay)

The center role in the Russian variation is one of Esteban’s favorites. At intermission, he rehearses all of the major steps one time through and moves on to stretching to ensure his knees and ankles are warm. Esteban also enjoys performing the Chinese divertissement. “I have fun with it!” he says.

Meanwhile, Miranda prepares for the Flower scene by executing a complete barre warm-up using a chair as her barre.

9:30 pm

After a full day, Miranda and Esteban are both happy to go home and relax. Miranda enjoys the biggest meal of her day—usually a meat dish—and readies her pointe shoes if she has the time. Although she usually sews on her ribbons between rehearsals, Nutcracker season is such a busy time that she tries to prepare her shoes in bulk. Esteban also fixes a meal for himself and focuses on getting enough sleep, before waking up and hopping on his Vespa for another busy day of Nutcracker.

Esteban Hernandez in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Esteban hails from Guadalajara, Mexico and trained at The Royal Ballet School and The Rock School in Philadelphia before joining SF Ballet in 2013. He was promoted to soloist in 2017 and to principal dancer in 2019. He has performed many parts in Nutcracker, including featured roles in the Spanish, Chinese, and Russian divertissements.

Miranda Silveira in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Miranda spent most of her childhood in Spain before joining SF Ballet School’s Trainee Program. In 2014, she was named a SF Ballet corps de ballet member after a year as an apprentice. She has performed many roles in Nutcracker, including a snowflake, a flower, and featured roles in the Spanish and French divertissements.


Making the Nutcracker Snow Scene


Nutcracker from the Wings


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Header Image: Esteban Hernandez in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Nutcracker, 1944

As we celebrate another incredible Nutcracker opening night, here’s a look back at the first ever opening night of at the War Memorial Opera House, 75 years ago.

San Francisco, Dec 25

Jocelyn Vollmar and and members of San Francisco Ballet performing in Willam Christensen’s “Nutcracker,” 1944. (© San Francisco Ballet. Photo courtesy SFMPD.)

“Willam Christensen adopted some of the familiar choreography and adapted some of it, and created new dance patterns for many of the scenes,” said Marjory M. Fisher in The San Francisco News. “The result was a colorful and entertaining Christmas ballet story replete with Christmas tree, candy canes and ice cream cones, toys and fairies—and the whole was engagingly done by soloists and ensemble.”

San Francisco, Dec 28

“For the second time this week, the Opera House last night was filled to overflowing with children and adults assembled to see the antics of the ‘Nutcracker’ in the famous ballet suite, arranged by Willam Christensen,” wrote Marie Hicks Davidson.

Oakland, Dec 28

Willam Christensen’s Nutcracker, 1944. (© San Francisco Ballet. Photo courtesy SFMPD.)

“Director Willam Christensen and his young troupe not only maintained the standard of artistic achievement set in the past by them,” wrote The Previewer in the Oakland Post-Enquirer, “but added greatly to their fine record through last night’s colorful and talented presentation.”

Sacramento, Dec 30

The children who rushed to see Nutcracker in Sacramento “applauded reminiscently the antics of the mischievous boy at the Christmas party, they groaned in chorus at the sudden turning off of the house lights, they laughed at the animated mechanical toys and the embattled mice and gingerbread men, and in general they had a wonderful time for themselves,” said Mila Landis in the Sacramento Bee.

Celina Cummings as the Rose from Waltz of the Flowers in Willam Christensen’s “Nutcracker,” 1944. (© San Francisco Ballet. Photo courtesy SFMPD.)

“There were so many fine dancers on the stage last night that only a few can be mentioned here,” wrote Merril Osenbaugh in The Sacramento Union. “Especially outstanding, however, were Onna White, Celena Cummings, Jocelyn Wollmar, Gisella Caccialanza, Russell Hartley, Earl Riggins and Christensen himself, as principal soloists.”

Header Image: Sally Whalen, Celina Cummings, Onna White, and other San Francisco Ballet dancers in W. Christensen’s “Nutcracker”, 1944. (© Joaquin Felsch. Courtesy of SFMPD.)


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A Tutu Fit for a Snow Queen

Every queen needs a fabulous ensemble! Our Snow Queen’s embellished tutu is a showstopper; its layers of fabric and uniquely shaped overlay took 80 hours to make. And we have five of them! That’s a total of 400 hours spent creating one character’s costume. 

San Francisco’s first Nutcracker in 1944 was staged on a tight wartime budget that allowed just $1,000 for ALL of the costumes. The Snow Queen, Jocelyn Vollmar, made her costume herself!

Yuan Yuan Tan in Tomasson's Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)
Yuan Yuan Tan in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Want another peek behind the curtain at the making of Nutcracker?


Making the Nutcracker Snow Scene


Nutcracker By the Numbers


Purchase Nutcracker tickets

Header Image: Jennifer Stahl in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Spread the Magic of Nutcracker

Nutcracker at SF Ballet is full of traditions. Dancers gather for a holiday potluck between shows. The orchestra plays carols before the Christmas Eve performance. And people like you help us spread the joy of dance and the magic of Nutcracker to children throughout the Bay Area.

Student Matinee Performance // © Erik Tomasson

Every year, donations both large and small to SF Ballet’s Children’s Enchantment Fund (CHEF) make it possible for children and their families to attend SF Ballet’s Nutcracker at no cost. Through our partnership with Community Access Ticket Service, more than 30,000 children to date have seen snowflakes swirl, mice scurry, and a Christmas tree grow before their eyes.

As you prepare for your own holiday traditions this December, consider donating to CHEF. Your contribution of any amount helps share the magic of Nutcracker.


Donate to CHEF

Header Image: Scene from a San Francisco Ballet’s Passport Performance // © Gary Sexton

Nutcracker By the Numbers

How many pointe shoes SF Ballet goes through during Nutcracker? How tall is the Christmas tree? Click through the numbers below to explore Nutcracker by the numbers.

18

Pounds of fabric in the wind-up ballerina’s tutu

Lauren Parrott in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

19

Soldiers (plus the Nutcracker) battle 11 mice (plus the King of the Mice)

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

30

Feet to the top of the Stahlbaums’ Christmas tree after it grows

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

65

Members of the Nutcracker orchestra

Martin West conducts the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra © Brandon Patoc

600

Pounds of snow falls (in each performance!)

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

1,200+

Pointe shoes used during Nutcracker season

Shoe maintenance // © Erik Tomasson

3,700+

Hours volunteers by SF Ballet BRAVO members during each Nutcracker season

San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Family Performance // © Chris Hardy

30,500+

Free Nutcracker tickets distributed through SF Ballet’s Children’s Enchantment Fund, since 1992.

Scene from a San Francisco Ballet’s Passport Performance. (© Gary Sexton)

Want to see more behind-the-scenes stories from Nutcracker?


Nutcracker from the Wings


The Soldiers of Nutcracker


Nutcracker’s Heaviest Tutu


Making the Snow Scene


Come Celebrate Nutcracker with us!

Header Image: Scene from a San Francisco Ballet’s Passport Performance // © Gary Sexton

Story time! Nutcracker Book Giveaway

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, we’re giving away a copy of The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron.

The cover of The Nutcracker Comes to America

In this beautiful book, you will meet Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, three small-town Utah boys who caught the ballet bug and grew up to create America’s first full-length version of The Nutcracker.

To enter, comment here or on our posts on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and tell us what your favorite ballet book is. Don’t forget to add the hashtag #Nutcracker75 and tag us (@sfballet) for a chance to win. Please note: If your account is private, please send us a DM. All entries must be posted by Monday, December 2 at midnight PST.


Nutcracker tickets


Book Giveaway Contest Rules

Header Image: San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Mindful Meets Magical: Ballet Book Club

What happens when you combine classic literature, epic story ballets, and a glass of wine with a group of up-for-anything dance fans? A Ballet Book Club of course!

Last season, San Francisco Ballet’s audience engagement team wanted to offer a way for audiences to mindfully engage with our magical art form. So they piloted the first ever (or at least, the first in San Francisco) ballet book club.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Lesley Rausch and Ezra Thomson in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (© Angela Sterling)

These events invite participants to read stories that inspired our world-renowned choreographers—or in true book club fashion, to read part of the story and then wing the discussion over a glass of wine or sparkling water—then come together to watch video of the corresponding parts of the ballet. Then, with their new (or old!) friends, they compare it to the book and discuss what was the same, what was different, and if reading the book made them more or less intrigued by the performance.

More chat-with-friends than college-literature-class, these events offer audience members a chance to meet new people, get a different perspective on some of their favorite books and ballets, and ask probing questions, such as “Why does Aurora agree to marry the prince after just one kiss?!”

Sound fun? We’re back this year with sessions on Cinderella, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo & Juliet. So come raise a glass with us at the intersection of mindful and magical.


Ballet Book Club Dates

Header Image: Frances Chung in Balanchine’s Coppélia // © Erik Tomasson

Nutcracker Spot the Difference

With only 21 days left until the Nutcracker leaps across the War Memorial Opera House stage once again (and 34 days until the 75th anniversary of our first Nutcracker performance), we are hard at work making sure everything is in place. 

Can you help us with our preparations? Find the 7 differences between these two images.

Looking for some other fun Nutcracker activities? We’ve got you covered! 


Sugar Plum Fairy Coloring Page


Clara Paper Doll


Word Search


Selfie Props


Clara Coloring Page


Prince Paper Doll


Purchase Nutcracker Tickets

All images: San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Carolin’ Around the Christmas Tree

On the first day of Nutcracker, SF Ballet gave to me: carolers in the lobby! Before our opening night performance on December 11—as well as before the rest of our Passport performances this holiday season—a local choir will perform some of your favorite holiday hymns and hits. Come to the War Memorial Opera House early, grab a festive drink, and listen to these fabulous performers:

Scene from San Francisco Ballet’s opening night Nutcracker Passport performance // © Erik Tomasson

December 11: Pacific Boychoir Academy
December 12: San Francisco Girls Chorus
December 13: Bay Area Vocal Academy
December 15: KEEVA A Cappella
D
ecember 18: Bay Area Vocal Academy
December 19: Bay Area Vocal Academy


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PASSPORT PERFORMANCE INFO

Header Image: Scene from a San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Passport performance // © Gary Sexton