In 1962, I was a Party Girl in Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker. I was 10 years old, and it was my first time on the big stage. I remember staring at the floor a lot, and watching some of the huge ornaments from the gigantic Christmas tree fall and shatter all over the stage.
I also remember seeing the older dancers warm up, and the excitement of being backstage. This excitement stuck with me and since then, The Nutcracker has been part of my life.
NBT’s 2022 Nutcracker production will be my 60th Nutcracker. I am thrilled to share my memories and the tradition of NBT’s Nutcracker production. It’s based on the old Boston Ballet version that I remember dancing as a child, and is told from the perspective of a 10-year-old-girl — 10-year-old Edra Toth, that is. NBT’s Nutcracker is basically a recreation of my childhood.
The Nutcracker is the only ballet in the classical repertoire that is for children, in that it predominantly features children in dancing roles. So, unlike other companies versions of the ballet, the role of Clara in NBT’s Nutcracker is not on pointe, because I feel that it’s more magical for Clara to be a little girl. In addition, there are mice but no rats because rats are too scary for small children.
Six years after my debut as a Party Girl, I danced the role of Sugar Plum Fairy for the Boston Ballet. The choreography of that role is ingrained in my DNA. Back then, choreographers didn’t have access to information like we do today — i.e., there was no YouTube — so roles were taught and passed on from dancer to dancer through, what I will describe as, a “verbal presentation of the role.” Today, I carry on this tradition by teaching my NBT company dancers and students the Nutcracker choreography in exactly the way the roles were taught to me — by describing the dance and demonstrating the steps from memory. NBT’s Nutcracker is a lifetime of honoring and sharing tradition. A lifetime of choreography passed on to the next generation of dancers. A lifetime of memories -- my memories -- brought to life.