Two Very Young Dancers, Living the ‘Nutcracker’ Dream


Do you have a moment that you look forward to in the ballet?

ALEX GRAYSON My favorite part is Snow because it’s so magical and really pretty.

MARIA KASHVILI I like to steal some of the snow. I have a whole collection of souvenirs from “The Nutcracker.” I have Polichinelle pompoms. Little jingle bells that fell off of one of the Candy Cane costumes. A little feather from a soldier’s hat. They’re in my jewelry box.

How do you like being spun on the bed?

MARIA It’s very nauseating. You get kind of dizzy.

Do you ever feel like you’re going to fall off? Sometimes those bed spinners go a little crazy.

MARIA I finally told my bed boys to take it easy. And then they made it even faster! And sometimes when it spins around especially fast, I feel like I’m going to fall off into the orchestra pit. I’ve never been on a roller-coaster, and I never want to.


From left, Alex and Aaron, Maria and Tenzin. Credit Andrew White for The New York Times

How do you feel about your princes? Is it strange to dance with a boy?

MARIA It’s kind of weird. But I got used to it since I’ve had to dance with so many boys over so many performances.

ALEX I’m not really bothered by it because as long as I’m friends with the person who I’m working with, it’s not that awkward. The first year in the party scene, Ms. Abergel said, “And now you’re going to have to hold hands with the boy,” and everyone went, “Ewww!” It got easier.

What is it like to imagine living in the world of the 1800s?

MARIA I always wanted to live in the olden times. It’s so much simpler. It feels a little bit like time travel.

Does the costume help put you into that frame of mind?

ALEX You’re in a corset sort of thing so it’s very tight and you kind of get a feeling of what they had to do. Don’t eat a big meal before going onstage. I did that once and almost threw up. [Maria laughs.] When I ran out, one of the dressers came behind me and said, “Not on the dress! Not on the dress!”

MARIA The first time I was Marie and I wore the dress — I had been in it for fittings and I thought it was O.K. — but opening night you’re extra nervous because you’re worried about what’s going to happen, what it’s going to feel like. [Pauses] The dress wasn’t really helping. Sometimes those dressers put it on so tight that you can barely breathe. I remember in “Swan Lake” everyone could barely breathe in those costumes.

ALEX It was like cardboard. When you tried to curtsy you couldn’t really bend down.


Maria, left, and Alex. Maria said of performing: “Onstage, you don’t really think if your leg is hurting or if you’re nauseous and you want to throw up.” Credit Andrew White for The New York Times

Are you exhausted by the end of the run?

ALEX I’m more exhausted during the run and then I kind of just relax at the end. It’s sad at the end, but it’s also kind of nice because I’m so tired and kind of stressed out during the performances. But then it feels good.

MARIA Well, it is kind of hard. But in the end you really feel like you’ve had an accomplishment. And when you are onstage, you don’t really think if your leg is hurting or if you’re nauseous and you want to throw up. You forget all your troubles. All the tiredness goes away.

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