Dec 14, 2017 - Partners

Backstage with Charlotte Ballet – a day in the life of dancer Alessandra Ball James

Charlotte Ballet's Nutcracker 2016 by Christopher Record Photography

Presented by Charlotte Ballet

Nutcracker season is in full swing, and with new sets and costumes the show is even more magical than before. They make it all look so effortless – what is a typical show day actually like for a professional Charlotte Ballet dancer?

We loved getting a behind-the-scenes look at a full day of 12th season (!) dancer Alessandra Ball James. You can see her in the Nutcracker as Rose and Sugar Plum Fairy now through Dec. 23. 

Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker 2016 by Peter Zay

A day in the life with Alessandra Ball James:

6:15 a.m. My 4 ½-year-old son bursts into our room and we watch cartoons or old school Batman for about a half hour (love getting this extra snuggle time with my fam, especially during theater weeks).

So. Freaking. CUTE.

Breakfast includes whole grain toast with mixed nut butter (Trader Joe’s is my favorite) and matcha tea.


8:30 a.m. Meet my friend and Sugar Plum partner, Josh Hall for Pilates at Pilates Body Shaping located in 8th Street Studio. He is getting certified to be an instructor!

9:45 a.m. Josh and I stop at Living Kitchen for a smoothie and the power pack shots. My favorite is the Incan Warrior. His favorite is The Flying Lucy. Fun fact: Josh and I share the same birthday… June 1st!

What up, bday twins!

10:30 a.m. Arrive at the theater and start getting my pointe shoes ready for the day. Today is a double show day; in the matinee I perform Rose in Waltz of the Flowers and in the evening I perform the role of Sugar Plum Fairy. I always need a bit softer shoes for Rose and very hard shoes for Sugar Plum.

So. Many. Pointe. Shoes.
So. Many. Pointe. Shoes.
Fun fact: Freed shoes are handmade, and each individual maker has their own symbol, like the butterfly.
Fun fact: Freed shoes are handmade, and each individual maker has their own symbol, like the tiny butterfly.

Since pointe shoes can all break in and wear differently, I try all my shoes on and see which ones I think would be best for each particular role for the day. I share a dressing room with Sarah Hayes Harkins:


12 p.m. Technique class begins. This class enables the dancers to warm up for the day, keep up our classical technique and get a feel for the stage. On a hard double show day like today I usually take class with the hardest steps that I have to execute on stage in mind.


My muscles can fatigue pretty easily during our theater days so I try to be smart about how much energy I put out during class. I focus on my core being engaged and being lifted in my legs. If I have these activated early on, it gives me a good foundation for the day.

Photo by Peter-Zay

1:30 p.m. Back to the dressing room and half hour call for performance 1 for the day. I snack on a Bruks Bar (yay for local – awesome taste and great energy food). Dressing room time is my all time favorite.


It’s where I goof off and laugh the most. Thank goodness Sarah is always up for being goofy with me. I believe that fun and the bond between the dancers shows on stage. We are creating good juju right?!? I have the fondest memories of my career in dressing rooms laughing.

Nutcracker rehearsals mean working on the weekend, but it’s still Sunday Funday when you love your squad. 💖💖 #charlotteballet

A photo posted by Charlotte Ballet (@cltballet) on

2 p.m. Show 1 begins but I don’t go on until act II so I continue my hair and makeup and make sure I am completely ready before the Snow Scene starts. I love to go into the Green Room and watch my friends on the monitor.

4 p.m. Show 1 is a wrap! Time to fuel up for show number 2. I have a big salad and a side of pasta my husband made me at home.

Serious snackage.
Serious snackage.

5 p.m. Quick run to Starbucks for matcha tea and a sweet treat.

5:45 p.m. Warm up class for show 2 begins. Our warm up classes are only 30 minutes and consist of barre exercises. They get my blood flowing again and muscles warm and activated.


6:30 p.m. Back to the dressing room and start getting my hair and make up ready for Sugar Plum.

Close-up of the new Sugar Plum crown
Close-up of the new Sugar Plum crown

By the second show we are a little crazier in the dressing room and have old-school Whitney, Celine or Britney on. I mean, how can these legends not pump someone up, right?


7 p.m. Show 2 begins and I repeat my routine from show 1. I am ready by the start of Snow. Fun fact, I always go on stage for Sugar Plum with three Altoids in my mouth. People backstage always make fun of me but it keeps my mouth from getting dry and I am sure Josh doesn’t mind. ;).

Waiting in the wings

9 p.m. Done! Ready for bed! I’m a pretty lucky gal and my hubs has yummy dinners waiting for me when I work long days like this. My favorite part of the day is making a cocktail with him and sharing stories from the day.

Great crew to come home to after a huge show day.

You can see Alex in Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker as Rose and Sugar Plum Fairy now through Dec. 23.

This new tutu is Sugar Plum Fairy approved! 🍬👑✔️ @burritojames

A post shared by Charlotte Ballet (@cltballet) on

(Note: This content was co-created with Charlotte Ballet. Cover photo by Christopher Record Photography and all other images courtesy of Charlotte Ballet/Alessandra James/Axios Charlotte unless otherwise noted)


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