Dancing Through the Holidays
While some people on the bustling streets of Boston prepare for the holidays in their usual consumerist manner, Brett Fukuda and her fellow ballerinas are preparing for one thing: The Nutcracker.
On the Friday before Thanksgiving, ballerinas lounge in a studio before rehearsal. There is soft chitchat, snacks, and stretches. Most of the dancers don flowing skirts. They stand up and walk on their toes to the center of the studio. Each head is adorned with an organized bun of hair, and it never comes undone.
“Which [position] do you feel more secure in?” the instructor asks, sitting in front of the mirror wall. Per direction, the ballerinas move to their designated areas. Some walk off to the sides. The pianist whispers to herself before she starts to play.
The music starts.
The famous tunes of The Nutcracker fill the room. Bodies start to float on the music. Sculpted abdomens beneath skin-tight shirts contract and release; legs flex and bend with each note; and the rainy November day does not seem so heavy anymore, despite its presence outside the large windows.
In the midst of melody, the dancers focus on their hands, their hamstrings, their landings and their leaps to prepare for the performance season: Between Nov. 29 and Dec. 29, Fukuda said she will perform The Nutcracker 43 times.
“It’s really intense on your body,” she said. “It may look easy. Most people just think of tutus and twirling, but it’s really intense. There’s lots of injuries, and we really have to train seriously to be able to make it through this run.”
She took her feet out of her pointe shoes, and each toe was touched by tape. Fukuda said she has blisters, corns, and bunions.
“I never wear sandals,” she said with a laugh.
Like all the Boston Ballerinas, Fukuda will perform multiple roles in The Nutcracker. “This year she will perform the roles of Spanish, snowflake, flower, and the maid in the party scene,” said Iman Richards, a public relations associate with Boston Ballet.
Even after the hour-long rehearsal and with a month of performances ahead of her, Fukuda’s dark eyes did not betray any exhaustion. With an unblemished face, a limber structure, and years of ballet experience from different dance schools around the country, the 20-year-old from Japan makes even rehearsal look easy in the bright Boston studio.
She started seriously dancing when she was nine. This year is Fukuda’s second year in the second company of the Boston Ballet.
“The first time I ever performed Nutcracker was when I was 10,” Fukuda said, “and I’ve been doing it every year since. I honestly can’t imagine a holiday season without Nutcracker; it’s part of my Christmas, I guess.”
Fukuda has attended ballet schools in various parts of the country. For her, waiting to celebrate Christmas with her family is not an obstacle.
“I’ve gotten used to it,” she said.
After 11 years of dancing, Fukuda is not immune to the butterflies that plague people before they get up in front of a crowd; it’s just that her butterflies are not as strong anymore.
“I do get a little bit nervous right before I go on, but then I think once I’m on stage, it’s just fine,” Fukuda said. “Also, I did [The Nutcracker] last year [with Boston Ballet] so I feel a little more comfortable with the choreography.”
Although she has some initial jitters before going on stage, Fukuda is concerned with how she can make improvements to her form. She said the 43 performances would give her the chance to develop.
“All the performance experience is good,” Fukuda said. “You can find something new to work on each performance since we have so many. One performance, you could just work on your hands or something, like ballet is so specific. Every little detail is important. There’s a lot to perfect.”
Perfecting her hand placement or the way she lets her legs catch her during a dance are not the only sorts of goals Fukuda has. She also has a quiet desire to change someone’s world.
“One of my goals would be to inspire somebody who it’s their first time at the ballet,” Fukuda said, “but that’s hard to achieve because you don’t really know.”