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Watch: How dancers learn the iconic role of The Nutcracker's Sugar Plum Fairy

Former Royal Ballet Principal Lesley Collier has been coaching Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae through the ballet's showcase duet.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

8 December 2017 at 12.20pm | 5 Comments

'You don't just get up and do this ballet – you can't', says Royal Ballet coach Lesley Collier of The Nutcracker.

Collier created the iconic role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Peter Wright's production back in 1984 and this Season has returned to the Company to coach two current Royal Ballet Principals – Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae – through the role of the Fairy and her Prince.

The process was captured in this film also featuring presenter Darcey Bussell, which was broadcast during The Nutcracker's recent live cinema relay.

'Anthony Dowell and I would spend the entire Act I upstairs in the studio and we would go through the pas de deux before going downstairs [to the stage] to do it for Act II', she says. 'It became something we'd do before every performance.'

'I have to have complete faith in the [coach] in front of me, which I do', says McRae. 'Lesley is the one. I walk in like a blank canvas – she knows what she's talking about'.

Dance partner Sarah Lamb agrees: 'It's the only way to pass on tradition'.

'For me what's special is to have a coach that's worked with [choreographers] Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan', says Darcey. 'All of that knowledge is extraordinary. We have to hold onto that because that makes us an individual company – we have that style and we can keep that style.'

Watch more films like this on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:

The Nutcracker runs until 10 January 2018. Tickets are sold out, although returns may become available. A limited number of tickets are released each week as part of Friday Rush.

The ballet is staged with generous philanthropic support from The Jean Sainsbury Royal Opera House Fund

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

8 December 2017 at 12.20pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged by Peter Wright, cinema, Darcey Bussell, Film, Lesley Collier, Production, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, The Nutcracker

This article has 5 comments

  1. Marilyn Sitaker responded on 8 December 2017 at 5:19pm Reply

    It's beautiful to see this pair together--they are so well matched. I plan to see the ROH Nutcracker in a Seattle Cinema for Christmas!

  2. Sharon Keogh responded on 8 December 2017 at 7:23pm Reply

    I loved this video about the wonderful Lesley Collier - she was an exceptional ballerina with an amazing technique - but she wasn't a cold technician, Lesley Collier brought a warmth to all her roles. I am so happy that she works so closely with the principles of the RB - because I know we can trust this beautiful ballerina to pass on not just the choreography but the intent and purpose behind each movement. What a treasure she is!

  3. Jharna elizabeth mann responded on 17 January 2018 at 7:35pm Reply

    I was astonished at the subtitles for the video on dancing the sugar plum fairy.jharna elizabeth mann. They are terribly wrong!!!!! Please check over

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 18 January 2018 at 11:41am

      Hi Jharna,

      Thanks for your comment. The subtitles have been auto-generated by YouTube rather than by the ROH, and hence are unfortunately prone to error. YouTube themselves have stated that it is a priority to address this, but it may take time for their technology to improve.

      Best wishes,


  4. KITs responded on 3 May 2019 at 5:38pm Reply

    Came to see the Nutcracker a few years ago and was blown away, hope it returns this year so I can see it again!!!!

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