In the world of classical ballet, The Nutcracker’s Sugar Plum Fairy reigns. She is ethereal and magical, and most often, she is often the only glimpse everyday folks have of professional ballet. Miami City ballet principal dancer, Jennifer Kronenberg is one of South Florida’s most loved dancers. Kronenberg, who has graced the cover of Dance Magazine, is most admired for her expressive theatricality and impressive technical range. She is also the recent author of the e-book So, You Want to Be a Ballet Dancer?, a book that offers practical advice to aspiring ballet dancers and shares some of Kronenberg’s most private memories from her dance career.
ARBURST caught up with Kronenberg to discuss The Nutcracker, her book, and her favorite partner on and off stage, husband and fellow dancer, Carlos Guerra.
How many seasons of The Nutcracker have you danced and how many times have you danced the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy?
JK: I have been dancing in The Nutcracker with MCB for 17 years, (since my first season with the company in 1994). I have been dancing the role of Sugar Plum Fairy for 11 years, but I’ve never actually counted how many shows I’ve actually danced. It must definitely be over 100!
The Nutcracker is often the only opportunity children get to experience professional ballet. Do you remember seeing it as a child? If so, what effect did it have on you?
New York City Ballet’s production of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker was in fact the first live ballet performance that I ever saw as a child, and it was entirely magical and inspirational. The stage was full of children, and I was just mesmerized. I kept wishing and wishing that one day I’d be one of them. I can remember so clearly what my favorite moments were – I’d look forward every year to the part of Act 1 when the tree grows to gigantic proportions, and the Nutcracker, his bed and all of the toys become life-sized. (I was sure that there was true magic involved!) The snow scene was always completely breathtaking, and in Act 2, I always loved the candy canes and Mother Ginger. The Sugar Plum Fairy didn’t quite capture my interests until I was older and could appreciate the actual dancing a bit more. Then, of course I dreamt of being Marie and having the Sugar Plum dance for me! The last bit of magic is the sleigh flying away at the end of the ballet, and at that point I’d always be sad that it was over and wish that I could see it all over again.
If you could choose one ballet to expose children to (besides The Nutcracker), what would you choose and why?
If I had to choose any other ballet to expose children to, I’d have to pick Coppelia. The story is very comical, very easy to follow, and younger audiences always find the humor in it. There are squabbling teenagers, a toyshop with “magical” dancing dolls, a crazy old doll maker and lots of hysterical mishaps. I think that for children, it is a great introduction to the world ballet.
In your e-book So, You Want to Be a Ballet Dancer? What is some of the most important advice you offer aspiring ballet dancers?
I offer many different pieces of advice, and “how-to” tips in the book, but one that I feel is extremely significant is learning how to persevere throughout your career. It is so important to keep your feet on the ground, your head on your shoulders, and not get too wrapped up in everyone else’s drama and insecurities. One must always try to take criticism gracefully and learn to apply it constructively, not destructively. It is crucial to remember that there is always something to be learned from ALL of the dancers around you, and one can benefit tremendously by constantly being aware and respectful of that. The learning and working process is never and should never be over. It is dangerous to ever believe that it is or could be, because the only place one can go from there is down.
How has the reception of the book been? What is it like to add “author” to your resume?
The reception of the book has been quite good. Better than I had hoped for actually! The only drawback seems to be that it is still only in electronic publication, which is still a bit of an inconvenience to some; especially since the book targets a younger audience.
It is so wonderfully rewarding to be able to add “author” to my resume. Writing a book is another dream that I’ve always had, and now I’m so grateful that I was able to make it come true. I felt so accomplished when I finally finished it, and even prouder when it got published. I absolutely loved the process, and I am definitely trying to figure out the logistics of how and when I’ll write another.
I read somewhere that you and your husband, Carlos Guerra, partnered for the first time in a performance of The Nutcracker. Is that correct? What year was it? What roles were you performing?
Yes, that is true! It was in the year 2000, and we danced the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Grand Pas de Deux in a performance of excerpts from “The Nutcracker” with students from the Miami City Ballet School at the Ocean Reef Club. Carlos was not yet officially in the company, he had just arrived to the United States a couple of months before. Edward [Villella] felt that it would be a good way to “break him in” and introduce him to working with the company – it was also motivation for him to stay in shape while he awaited his working papers! It also happened to be my first year dancing the role of “Sugar Plum,” so the school performance was sort of my practice run before I danced in the actual theater later that month. That performance and the rehearsals that preceded it led to an amazingly special and successful partnership (in more ways than one) and I’m so thankful for that!
Jennifer Kronenberg’s blog is at: http://ballerina2thepointe.wordpress.com/
Under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Villella, Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker runs in Miami Dec. 15 through 18 at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $20 to $68. Call 305-929-7010 or visit miamicityballet.org. Tickets can also be purchased Arsht Center. Call (305) 949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org.
This article was fist published in the Miami Sun Post.
Photo: Miami City Ballet principal dancers Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra; credit Leigh-Ann Esty