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

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

Flowers & Bear at the Zoo and The Palace

Just days before the opening of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, The Palace Hotel got into the spirit with a Nutcracker Tea, held in its historic Palm Court restaurant. In addition to a festive afternoon tea, families and friend met and took photos with dancers in costume as flowers from SF Ballet’s production. 

In costume for Nutcracker at The Palace Hotel’s Nutcracker Tea

On hand to enjoy some tea and sandwiches was Nutcracker Bear, who certainly made the most of the opportunity to celebrate in style before the long run of Nutcracker performances begins.

Nutcracker Bear at the Palace // Caitlin Sims
Nutcracker Bear at the Palace Hotel

Flowers and Bear also visited San Francisco Zoo, as guests at a series of “Little Learner” classes and to meet zoo attendees. Nutcracker Bear was thrilled to make friends with the chimpanzees, who seemed slightly taken aback by Nutcracker Bear’s sartorial choices. Next stop, Nutcracker!

In costume for Nutcracker at San Francisco Zoo

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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

It’s Saber Monday!

Looking for a special holiday gift? Instead of picking out another tie or another toy, what about spending an afternoon together, sharing a magical experience that you’ll always remember? 

For “Saber Monday,” we’re offering $75 tickets for Orchestra and Dress Circle seating for the 12/12 (11 am), 12/13 (2 pm) & 12/18 (11 am) shows. These special matinees are a wonderful way to share the joy of Nutcracker with friends and family. Join us for an enchanted afternoon, won’t you?

To purchase tickets, click the button below and enter promo code MOUSEKING. Then select December 12 at 11 AM, December 13 at 2 PM, or December 18 at 11 AM. 

Hurry! This offer expires at midnight!

Save on Saber Monday

Header image: SF Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Save on Sugarplum Saturday!

She’s the benevolent leader of the Land of Dreams–and she wants to help you make your Nutcracker dreams come true!  For one day only, you can secure discounted $75 tickets for Main Floor Orchestra and Dress Circle seating for Nutcracker performances on December 12 at 11 AM, December 13 at 2 PM, and December 18 at 11 AM.*

To purchase tickets, click the button below and enter promo code SUGARPLUM. Then select December 12 at 11 AM, December 13 at 2 PM, or December 18 at 11 AM. 

Hurry! This offer expires at midnight on 11/30/19 or while supplies last.

Secure Sugarplum Savings

*Offer expires at midnight or while supplies last and cannot be combined or applied to previously purchased tickets. Offer valid for all Dress Circle and Orchestra rear center and side seating sections. 

Header image: Frances Chung in Tomasson’s Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson); Above: Wona Park in Tomasson’s Nutcracker

Dancing Home from Nutcracker

This is Amani, who danced his way into hearts around the world after his mom recorded him dancing home from a Nutcracker performance last December. Amani and his twin brother first came to SF Ballet’s studios for Summer Dance Camp through SF Ballet’s partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco. School Director Patrick Armand spotted the brothers’ joyous dance (and perfect-for-ballet feet!) and immediately offered them scholarships to SF Ballet School.

SF Ballet School Level 1 Boys // © Brandon Patoc
SF Ballet School Level 1 Boys // © Brandon Patoc

After 2 years of pre-ballet lessons, the twins are currently enrolled in level 1 at SF Ballet School.

At SF Ballet, we’re thankful for everyone who loves ballet, and for all who support ballet. And particularly for those who attend performances, then dance their way home—whether in body or in spirit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

SF Ballet School Level 1 Boys // © Brandon Patoc
SF Ballet School Level 1 Boys // © Brandon Patoc

Nutcracker tickets

Summer Dance Camp

Header image: San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Dance Camp with Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco // © Chris Hardy