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The Nutcracker is Returning to Boston Ballet—Here’s What Live Performance Means to the Cast This Year

Paulo Arrais, Tigran Mkrtchyan and Mia Steedle in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet

During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Citizens Bank Opera House is filled with iconic sweeping strings and fluttering woodwinds echoing through the magnificent house. On stage, Boston Ballet puts on show after flawless show, giving audiences the gift of The Nutcracker as they do each year. But last year, a dark, empty stage faced a sea of empty chairs. All the dancers remained at home or in the studio and all the costumes hung dormant. There were no smiling faces, no applause, and nobody to embrace the flood of Christmas spirit.

Now, The Nutcracker season is approaching again, but this time, everyone is invited back to the theater. Here’s what that means to the people making the show happen.

Lasha Khozashvili in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Nutcracker includes a full Company of 51 dancers, 12 Boston Ballet II dancers, and Boston Ballet School students. One of the dancers you’ll see on stage is Principal Dancer Lasha Khozashvili. He performs in various roles such as Herr Drosselmeier, Arabian, Snow King, Nutcracker Prince, and Cavalier. You’ll be treated to the gorgeous music performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra and festive visuals, the timeless story, and of course, masterful dancing.

“I would definitely say that it’s must-see,” says Khozashvili. “You are going to feel the joy, you are going to feel the love, and you’re going to feel the excitement.”

Behind the scenes is the brains of the operation, the Production Stage Manager, Craig Margolis. “I am in charge of orchestrating the smooth running of the live performance by coordinating all the facets—dancers, musicians, technicians, and house staff—to present the best experience for the audience,” he says.

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet is preparing as we speak for the opening of The Nutcracker on November 26, which marks their first live performance in almost two years. The dancers, crew, and staff could not be more eager. “Now that we know that we are going back to normal and finally opening up again, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that type of excitement in my life,” says Khozashvili.

“We are going through the hardest work, going through some of the hardest rehearsals, to perfect every step, every single piece of choreography,” he says. In his 11 years as Principal Dancer at Boston Ballet, he’s seen rehearsals that last anywhere from one to six hours long. But make no mistake: “Sometimes that one hour rehearsal can be so hard,” he says.

Lasha Khozashvili and Lia Cirio in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

What makes it all worth it? The audience. When it comes to The Nutcracker, Margolis does it for the kids. “When I’m not calling the show and get to watch from the front of house (in the audience), I see the faces of the kids watching something live for perhaps the first time,” he says. “The excitement and wonderment in their eyes, the joy and animation on their faces as if they were opening presents on Christmas morning.”

For Khozashvili, a full audience is something that never gets old—and this year, it’s long overdue. The dancers haven’t felt the energy of a live audience since March 2020. “I think it’s really wonderful that we are opening with The Nutcracker,” he says. “It’s for kids, for adults, for everyone. Everybody loves it, it makes everyone happy.” Plus, he notes, Boston Ballet has one of the best productions of the show in the whole world.

Margolis recommends The Nutcracker for ballet novices. “If you want to experience ballet for the first time, this is the way to go—great dancing that will delight your soul in a moment when we all need a boost.”

Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; photo by Angela Sterling; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Because of their collective passion, energy and creative spirit comes naturally to the cast—and never runs dry. “It feels like an opening night every performance of the 35-show run,” says Margolis. “Every audience member is seeing the show for the first time, and they deserve the energy and precision of an opening night.”

As for the dancers? “I’m pretty sure our hearts are going to be pumping like crazy,” says Khozashvili. “We can’t wait.”

Boston Ballet deeply misses their audience, and they are anxious to have them back in the house. It’s something Khozashvili and the whole cast have been waiting for almost two years—though it has certainly felt like more. According to Khozashvili, there’s plenty of Christmas spirit to go around.

“We’re going to make them smile, make them laugh, make them feel, and that excites me—that excites us,” he says. “It’s an absolutely magical feeling.”


To learn more and get your tickets to see Lasha Khozashvili on stage in The Nutcracker at Boston Ballet, visit bostonballet.org/the-nutcracker