Ballerinas balance school and dance during “Nutcracker” season

During the day, they can be found hanging out in the cafeteria or taking notes in class. But outside of school, they are sugar plum fairies, dancing dewdrops, and shimmering snowflakes. When holiday season rolls around, the many dancers at Staples pirouette their way onstage into classical productions of “the Nutcracker.”

The Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition that scores of students look forward to each December, whether they dance or not.

“[‘The Nutcracker’] never gets old,” explained Emily Lewis ’15. “I’ve learned the Russian and Chinese variations in class, so I enjoy [watching] them the most.”

However, many people don’t realize how much preparation goes into the production. Between auditions, rehearsals, and lessons, students are left with little time and energy to tackle academics or hang out with friends.

“I have ten hours of class a week, but during ‘Nutcracker’ I have additional rehearsals on weekends,” said Megan Nuzzo ’15, a party scene adult and shepherdess in Westport’s Academy of Dance’s production.

Even dancers who aren’t performing in the Nutcracker find it hard to balance dance with their busy school and social lives.

“Dance takes up a tremendous amount of time, and although I love it, I know that school takes precedence,” said Sasha Dymant ’16, who dances 18 hours a week and says she gets an average of only five and a half to six hours of sleep per night.

However, students add that the high stress level and loss of sleep is worth it, especially because “the Nutcracker” is such a special tradition.

“Nutcracker is completely worth it, even though all of us are so busy,” said Renee Reiner ’15, who is this year’s Candy Cane. “It’s so rewarding to dance and see an auditorium full of people who are watching. It’s also just so much fun to work with everyone in the dance studio.”

After months of rehearsing, dancers agree there is nothing better than seeing their hard work pay off. When it comes time for their moment in the spotlight, the performers say nothing can hold them back, not even a little bit of stage fright.

“I get really nervous before the first show, but once you get on stage and hear the audience’s reactions, all the stress melts away,” said Nuzzo. “Even though ‘Nutcracker’ can be time consuming and a bit stressful, it’s everyone’s absolute favorite time of the year.