Dance: A former ‘Nutcracker’ principal has a new role — mentor
Miranda Weese has practiced and performed “The Nutcracker” hundreds of times for various companies over the past 30 years, but she isn’t tired of the ballet. And this former principal dancer for New York City Ballet is participating in the holiday show in a very different way this year.
On a Sunday morning at the end of October at the Boston Ballet studio in the South End, Weese is at work, directing 50 of the nearly 230 young dancers in “The Nutcracker.” As she goes through the party scene over and over again, she sways to the music as she shouts out corrections and directions. When young voices start to echo too loudly in the second-floor studio, Weese stops to quiet the room.
“We’re all having fun, but let’s keep it down,” Weese says with a smile to the performers, who range in age from 8 to 14.
Weese stepped into her new role as children’s ballet master at Boston Ballet at the end of September and has since leapt into teaching dancers and directing eight sections for Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen’s production of “The Nutcracker,” which opens at the Boston Opera House on Nov. 24.
“It was a little overwhelming. It’s a lot of new information, I’m not familiar with this production. . . . I basically had to learn everything as I go, from the choreography to the way things are done,” says Weese, who assumed her role right before “The Nutcracker” rehearsals began.
Going through the dances with the children numerous times to make sure they understand the part — and then going over it again to add quality to the movements — has been repetitive, but Weese says she has already learned patience: “I like repetition, I’ve been doing it for years.”
Weese grew up in Orange County, Calif., with knocked knees, making her a clumsy elementary school student. At the recommendation of her doctor, her parents signed her up for dance classes to help strengthen her knees. It turns out dance also strengthened her confidence. The serious, technical aspects made her introverted self feel connected and bold, she says.
At age 15, after participating in a New York City Ballet summer program, she was offered a position in the yearlong program, and eventually an apprenticeship at the school. From there Weese moved up the company ladder at an accelerated pace. By 21, Weese was performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Dew Drop Fairy, principal roles, in the New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker.”
“I thought [being a principal dancer] would be something I grew into, instead of something I felt like I had to catch up to,” Weese says. “I suddenly was out there with women who had been principals for years, and I felt like a young girl. But I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, so I just saw it as a challenge I had to rise to.”
Once again, Weese is rising to the challenge, mastering the art of directing hundreds of children. But this time, when Weese got the job offer, she felt more prepared and ready.
“To get a position like this is a rare thing. Jobs like these don’t come around very often,” she says. “People who have them tend to keep them. I was at a point in my life that it was perfect timing, and I felt like I was ready for this type of position.”
After 17 years as a professional dancer, Weese had retired from dancing for the last 10. In 2007, she taught aerial and dance fitness. Eventually, she ended up teaching ballet again at the National Museum of Dance at the School of the Arts in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
“It’s great to be able to pass on what I know and what I’ve experienced,” Weese says. “It’s really exciting to get students at such young ages to be able to instill in them the type of love for dance I had . . . and have.”
Presented by Boston Ballet. At Boston Opera House, Nov 24-Dec 31. Tickets: 617-695-6955, www.bostonballet.org