What is it like to dance the Sugar-Plum Fairy?
Marianela Núñez of the Royal Ballet on tackling one of ballet’s best-loved roles
‘The Sugar-Plum Fairy has to wait for the whole of Act I to come in, but it’s in Act II that the magic begins. We’re in the land of the sweets, which is all white and glittering. It’s strange because there’s not much drama or storyline – you’re in this magical kingdom and you’re the Sugar-Plum Fairy – but the music makes you feel so many things. It’s heaven.
The pas de deux I dance with the cavalier is so beautiful – even when in the rehearsal studio with the piano, it moves me. The music fits perfectly with the steps and the drama, yet it has so many layers. It’s the same for all of Tchaikovsky’s ballets; his music takes you to a very special place.
It is a very demanding role. Though not as flashy as other roles, it’s so pure. We dance Peter Wright’s version, after the original Lev Ivanov choreography, and what’s hard is how to make it look easy.
I first danced it in 2000 when I was 18, replacing Darcey Bussell who was pregnant, and the experience was incredible. Every time I dance it I look forward to it, and as you get older, you become more mature and discover new things.’
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This interview was first published in the Christmas 2013 issue of BBC Music Magazine.