ballerina backstage nutracker

Photographed by Rosalie O’Connor Courtesy of Boston Ballet

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Sarah Wroth is the type of artist, colleague, leader and friend who reimagines what is possible in any given moment. I was lucky to dance beside this special person for many years while we worked together at Boston Ballet. The integrity Sarah brought to her work elevated our entire organization, where she challenged each of us to bring open minds, hearts and spirits to the studio each day.

After I left the company, and before Sarah herself retired, we made it a habit to meet for tea and exchange life updates. As we caught up at a cafe one afternoon, I extended sympathy to Sarah for the “dreaded” Nutcracker season soon underway for her. Sarah smiled back at me, the joy in her face proving the honesty in her reply.

I love Nutcracker, she said.

Sarah pointed out how Nutcracker is often the first, sometimes only ballet to bring someone to the theater. She expressed a sense of honor in being able to share dance with new, more diverse audience members. She went on to frame the yearly grind of Nutcracker as a tremendous opportunity for artistic and personal growth. As we spoke, it became clear that Nutcracker didn’t break her down – it lifted her up.

Plus, for a child, Sarah emphasized, Nutcracker is pure magic.

In all my years in the company with Sarah, I had assumed her unwavering devotion to Nutcracker each winter was some kind of survival strategy intersecting with her trademark work ethic. But in the café that day, I felt the glowing sincerity in her love towards something so many of us have taken for granted as dancers – resented even.

Sometimes optimism feels like bullshit. Sometimes though, the seemingly-optimistic perspective is actually the more complete view. Sarah didn’t deny that performing Nutcracker season can be mind-numbing, soul-draining and generally pretty painful. She didn’t sugarcoat reality or add artificial sweetener. She simply hadn’t forgotten there are other pieces to the Nutcracker story. Dancing Nutcracker IS an honor. It IS a responsibility. It IS… at least sometimes… pure magic.

With heart,

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