Baby, It’s Cold Inside! Making the Nutcracker Snow Scene

SF Ballet’s Nutcracker is known for the sheer amount of snow that falls during the Snow Scene—the final moments are a legitimate blizzard!

The snowflakes are made out of paper and are created by a giant hole puncher. During the performance, three long, narrow bags of 200 pounds of snow are suspended above the stage, hidden from the audience. Each bag is manipulated by two members of the stage crew who make the snow fall. During intermission, the fallen snow is swept and shoveled into large bins. It is sifted through to remove dirt, hairpins, sequins, and other debris and then reused at the next performance.

At intermission, the question on everyone’s lips seems to be: how do the snowflakes dance in all that snow?

So we asked two dancers, Principal Dancer Jennifer Stahl and Corps de Ballet member Ludmila Bizalion, how they navigate the snow scene. Stahl says that because it can get slippery, the dancers put rosin (a powdered form of tree resin) on their shoes to make them stickier. She also reports “little tricks like aiming towards the zones where less snow is dumped.” Bizalion says she tries to remember to breathe through her nose. It’s hard, she says, but by the end of the run, “we get used to it!”

Reserve Nutcracker tickets

Header image: Kimberly Marie Olivier in Tomasson’s Nutcracker

Photoessay: Nutcracker from the Wings

Erik Tomasson has been San Francisco Ballet’s photographer since 2004. Through photographing multiple performances of Nutcracker each year, he has developed a deep familiarity with the production. These images, shot by Tomasson from the wings, offer a rare look behind the scenes of this holiday classic.

Ricardo Bustamante backstage as Drosselmeyer

An SF Ballet Student as Clara onstage during the battle scene

Snowflakes waiting for their entrance

The Snow Queen and King rehearsing a lift before their entrance

Jennifer Stahl waits for her entrance as the Sugar Plum Fairy while butterflies dance

Mother Ginger’s Buffoons’ joyous dance

Sofiane Sylve as the Sugar Plum Fairy during the Waltz of the Flowers

All photographs © Erik Tomasson

Purchase your Nutcracker tickets today

Sasha de Sola, Principal Dancer, on Don Quixote

Principal Dancer Sasha De Sola engages in a lively discussion about her classical roles, contrasting her preparation for dancing more contemporary parts. She acknowledges solid, classically-based training for contributing to her technical achievements. She describes the challenges of dancing Kitri in Don Quixote, but emphasizes how much fun it is!

Like what you heard? Subscribe to our Meet the Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to access archived episodes and have new ones delivered straight to your devices!

Header image: Sasha De Sola and Aaron Robison in Tomasson’s Nutcracker  // © Erik Tomasson

Photoessay: Nutcracker from the Wings

Erik Tomasson has been San Francisco Ballet’s photographer since 2004. Through photographing multiple performances of Nutcracker each year, he has developed a deep familiarity with the production. These images, shot by Tomasson from the wings, offer a rare look behind the scenes of this holiday classic.

Ricardo Bustamante backstage as Drosselmeyer

An SF Ballet Student as Clara onstage during the battle scene

Snowflakes waiting for their entrance

The Snow Queen and King rehearsing a lift before their entrance

Jennifer Stahl waits for her entrance as the Sugar Plum Fairy while butterflies dance

Mother Ginger’s Buffoons’ joyous dance

Sofiane Sylve as the Sugar Plum Fairy during the Waltz of the Flowers

All photographs © Erik Tomasson

 

Purchase your Nutcracker tickets today

 

Baby, It’s Cold Inside! Making the Nutcracker Snow Scene

SF Ballet’s Nutcracker is known for the sheer amount of snow that falls during the Snow Scene—it’s a legitimate blizzard!

The snowflakes are made out of paper and are created by a giant hole puncher. During the performance, three long, narrow bags of 200 pounds of snow are suspended above the stage, hidden from the audience. Each bag is manipulated by two members of the stage crew who make the snow fall. During intermission, the fallen snow is swept and shoveled into large bins. It is sifted through to remove dirt, hairpins, sequins, and other debris and then reused at the next performance.

At intermission, the question on everyone’s lips seems to be: how do the snowflakes dance in all that snow?

So we asked two dancers, Principal Dancer Jennifer Stahl and Corps de Ballet member Ludmila Bizalion, how they navigate the snow scene. Stahl says that because it can get slippery, the dancers put rosin (a powdered form of tree resin) on their shoes to make them stickier. She also reports “little tricks like aiming towards the zones where less snow is dumped.” Bizalion says she tries to remember to breathe through her nose. It’s hard, she says, but by the end of the run, “we get used to it!”

Top photo: Kimberly Marie Olivier in Tomasson’s Nutcracker

Purchase your Nutcracker tickets today

What SF Ballet Dancers Did This Summer

(Above) Ana Sophia Scheller in Don Quixote at Stern Grove  // © Erik Tomasson

 

July is an exciting time at SF Ballet, as Company members return to the studios after a two-month hiatus. In addition to preparing for local performances at Festival Napa Valley (July 27) and Stern Grove Festival (July 29), they worked with choreographers Yuri Possokhov and Liam Scarlett on their upcoming world premieres. They also started rehearsing story ballets like Don QuixoteThe Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid for the 2019 Season. We caught up with a few of the dancers to find out what they did during their time off—and which ballets they are particularly excited about performing during the 2019 Season.


Tiit Helimets

Principal Dancer

SF Ballet in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid // © Erik Tomasson

 

What did you do during your summer break?  I choreographed my second ballet for the Estonian National Ballet. It will premiere on November 8, 2019 and I am looking forward to seeing it come to life on the stage.

What are you looking forward to in SF Ballet’s 2019 Season?  I’m glad that [John Neumeier’s] The Little Mermaid is coming back. This was a great ballet to dance. Also [Alexei Ratmansky’s] Shostakovich Trilogy brings back good memories—and challenges.


Sasha De Sola

Principal Dancer

Sasha De Sola teaching at Ballet West Academy // © Beau Pearson

 

What did you do during your summer break?  Summer is a time for rest and rejuvenation—and travel! This year, Yuan Yuan Tan invited Vitor Luiz and me to her hometown of Shanghai, China. We worked with Netherlands Dance Theater–based choreographer Medhi Walerski in a choreographic workshop for students from Shanghai. I also traveled to Salt Lake City, to teach at Ballet West Academy’s summer intensive. My downtime between trips has been filled with lots of cuddle time with my dog.

What are you looking forward to in SF Ballet’s 2019 Season?  I’m looking forward to being back at work in the SF Ballet studios! It’s hard to pick just one ballet in the upcoming season, but I really enjoy the process of working on the full-length ballets.


 Lauren Strongin

Soloist

Lauren Strongin and Jaime Castilla in Dana Genshaft’s REELs in Spain // © Alberto Rodrigálvarez

 

What did you do during your summer break?  I traveled to Zaragoza, Spain and performed with eight other San Francisco Ballet dancers.

What are you looking forward to in SF Ballet’s 2019 Season?  I’m looking forward to the new Liam Scarlett work and Shostakovich Trilogy.


Thamires Chuvas

Corps de Ballet member

Thamires Chuvas in Brazil

 

What did you do during your summer break? I had an amazing time in Brazil. It’s always great to be back home and see my family and friends.

What are you looking forward to in SF Ballet’s 2019 Season? I’m looking forward to performing in [Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov’s] Don Quixote because it’s one of my favorite ballets, and The Little Mermaid because I have never seen it before.


Gabriela Gonzalez

Corps de Ballet member

Gabriela Gonzalez at Chichén Itzá in Mexico

 

What did you do during your summer break?  I spent time in the in the Yucatán peninsula at Puerto Progreso and Chichén Itzá. My summer motto was “Free your spirit, love all around… and dance!”

 

What are you looking forward to in SF Ballet’s 2019 Season?  I am really looking forward to Divertimento No. 15. When I graduated from Miami City Ballet School, I danced two of the five lead parts (in different casts). That ballet is so very special to me. And also Don Quixote. I love the Spanish flair.