Nutcracker in Cuba, and other questions for Alberta Ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy

Hayna Gutierrez is the Sugar Plum Fairy in Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker from Dec. 28 to 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. PNG

By Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun, December 25, 2017

Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker

Dec. 28 to 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 29 & 30 at 2 p.m. | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Tickets: from $35 to $95 at

Every two years, Ballet B.C. brings Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker back to Vancouver. The family favourite features the VSO performing the Tchaikovsky score, choreography by Alberta Ballet’s Edmund Stripe, sets and costumes by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, and of course the Alberta Ballet’s troupe of dancers. We talked to Hayna Gutierrez, who performs as the Sugar Plum Fairy, about the production.

Q:Have you danced the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in Alberta Ballet’s Nutcracker since joining the company eight years ago?

A: When I joined Alberta Ballet, I already came with the title of a principal dancer. I was a principal dancer in Cuba. When I left Cuba I was in the U.S. for a while as a guest, then I joined the company here as a principal. Because the Sugar Plum Fairy is a principal role, that’s what I got to dance here as well.

Q: Is The Nutcracker performed in Cuba?

A: In Cuba, we perform the Nutcracker at the same time, December and the beginning of January. But it’s not like here in North America or in Europe where you have 20 to 40 performances. It’s a tradition but not as much.

Hayna Gutierrez is the Sugar Plum Fairy in Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker from Dec. 28 to 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. PNG

Q: How do you stay interested in the role?

A: Every performance is different. It’s also about how you feel that day. I also get to dance this year with my husband, that’s something new. It’s very exciting for me to dance with him and share a stage. And of course, I have more experience now. Every year is getting easier. You don’t have to worry too much about the technique. You can enjoy more and relax and listen to the beautiful music. I think one of my favourite parts is when I do my makeup and put my tiara on. That starts getting me in the mood.

Q: What do you find about the audiences who come to the show?

A: We always say it’s not Christmas without The Nutcracker. The parents and kids can enjoy the colours and the story and the tradition. We have a full theatre every night. It’s also amazing for the dancers to have an audience that appreciates our art. Kids love it.

Q: For many, especially kids, it’s probably their first exposure to ballet.

A: Even for the dancers. That’s how we started. You go to the Nutcracker and then you want to go to ballet class. A lot of my friends just started going to ballet class because they saw The Nutcracker.

Alberta Ballet dancers Hayna Gutierrez and Garrett Groat in The Nutcracker, which runs from Dec. 28 through 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. YIN YI / PNG

Q: Was there a performance that inspired you to become a dancer?

A: My mom was a soloist with the Cuban National Ballet. Since I was born, I was surrounded by dancers. I was always at the theatre with her so I got to see lots of ballet. I always had pointe shoes on, even if they were big on me, and a bodysuit and a skirt.

Q: Do you remember the first time you saw The Nutcracker?

A: Yes. I also got to play one of the mice the first time. When I was 11-years-old, I played the Sugar Plum Fairy. So it’s many many years, different stages, different times of my life, and it’s still very enjoyable. It’s still a passion for me to play the same role over and over again.

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