For many, the Sugar Plum Fairy needs no introduction. She is the magical legendary creature who epitomizes goodness and light and transcends any earthly description.
Composer Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky gave her a voice when he discovered the celesta (musical instrument) and gave it a massive solo in the Nutcracker. The celesta has a smooth and beautiful tone and its inventor named it because of its “celestial” heavenly sound, and so the Sugar Plum Fairy appears to come to us directly from heaven. The Sugar Plum Fairy speaks to a new audience every year, and every child in the US experiences her at least once in their life if they’re lucky, and some will be transformed by her.
I came to realize the importance of this mythical character through the experience of performing that role in the Nutcracker for 25 years (especially in the SF Bay Area where I came to be affectionately called: “Rosine Bena, the Sugar Plum Fairy”).
I remember going to the DMV and getting my license photo taken or to the dentist to get my tooth filled or to the doctors or to the grocery store. Each time someone would say: “it’s the Sugar Plum Fairy.” At first, I found this annoying, but I later realized that this title had nothing to do with me or any person for that matter. It had to do with a belief. The Sugar Plum Fairy is about the hope and faith that there is something in life far greater, more beautiful, and more powerfully good than any earthly human being. We can each aspire to be like her in some way and she will bring us to a higher spiritual place.
That became really evident to me in (of all places) the doctor’s office when I was having a problem with allergies and getting my sinuses drained. I was feeling just horrible sitting with all these tubes up my nose, when I looked over at the doorway filled with a group of adoring faces looking at me. At first, I felt very embarrassed, but then I realized that they did not see a silly woman with tubes hanging out of her nose – they saw what they wanted to see: the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The importance of this character became more and more obvious to me, especially when the Sugar Plum Fairy was invited to visit the Children’s Cancer ward in San Francisco. I thought that I was not emotionally strong enough to visit dying children and their families, and I did not want to go. But the Sugar Plum Fairy was needed, and so I donned my pink tutu and pointe shoes and went. Contrary to my fears, it was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. It was not only the children that touched my heart but the hope and faith in the eyes of their parents that most moved me. The Sugar Plum Fairy is far greater than a mere role in a ballet.
SNB performs The Peanutcracker-The Story In A Nutshell annually at both the Carson City Community Center and at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno for both the general public and approximately 4,000 public school children. So it is with great joy that I continue to pass on the legacy of that magical character to other generations of dancers. This year, I proudly pass the legacy to SNB soloist, Carlee Bertero.
Carlee was first introduced to the Sugar Plum when she attended SNB’s Peanutcracker with her Kindergarten class. She told her mother after the performance that it was her dream to someday dance in SNB’s Peanutcracker. Her dream came true in 2012 when Carlee became an SNB Apprentice and got to perform in the Waltz of the Flowers in Peanutcracker. Since then she has worked her way up through the ranks at SNB, being raised from Apprentice to Corps de Ballet to Demi-soloist and then to Soloist in 2021. This year she will get the chance for the first time to become that magical creature filled with warmth, love and hope: the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Bertero teaches on staff at the SNB Academy and specializes in the lower ballet levels as she has a gift for working with younger children. I know that when Carlee walks on the stage this December at the Carson City Community Center and at the Pioneer Center, the Sugar Plum Fairy will once again have the ability to transform the lives of young audiences and their families.
For ticket information and information about SNB and the SNB Academy visit www.sierranevadaballet.org or call 775-360-8663