Houston Ballet’s The Nutcracker

We all know the story behind the ballet The Nutcracker: The Nutcracker Prince takes young Clara on a dreamy journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets, where she meets a slew of characters with delicious monikers — most importantly, the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Okay, we understand the leading role in this classic holiday tale is kind of a big deal for all tutu-sporting twirlers with pointy-toe aspirations. But what about the other star? No, not Clara — the Nutcracker Prince. It’s often overlooked that the dude onstage is just as excited to be there as the gal he’s spinning, throwing and catching.

“Everyone wants to be a prince,” says Linnar Looris, who will dance the role of the Nutcracker Prince for the Houston Ballet in today’s opening performance. Just as getting to be the Fairy or Cinderella is a top achievement for the ladies, being crowned the role of Prince is a major mark of accomplishment for the gents.

“You want to be the prince in any big ballet, not only Nutcracker. You want to be [the prince] in Swan Lake and you want to do Cinderella and all these great ballets,” says Looris, a native Estonian who was recently promoted to soloist. The Nutcracker Prince was his first prince role, but he says every reincarnation brings the same excitement.

“It’s always a special feeling to do Nutcracker — even if it’s 35 shows, it doesn’t matter, it’s always something different,” he says, and adds that he dances every night as if it were his last. “Who knows what could happen tomorrow: Maybe the world comes to an end [or] the financial crisis hits everybody so hard they shut down everything,” he says and laughs.

It’s hard to think that ballerinas (or ballerinos) are thinking of economics as they leap and bound across the stage, but apparently that’s not all that’s on their minds.

“When you have a free moment, then you would maybe think, like, ‘Oh, what am I going to have for dinner?’ or something. But it’s those kinds of moments when you don’t actually do anything, like sometimes when you stand,” he says, and assures us that when he’s in motion he’s thinking of steps and counts, not stocks and sandwiches.

“When you get a little easier parts on the stage, then your mind sometimes wanders around, but then you kind of catch yourself, like, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Just come back,’” he says. “It’s just like a millisecond or something.” See if you can catch Looris in a moment of contemplation when he dances as the Prince next to ol’ what’s her name at 7:30 p.m. today, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. The show runs through December 28. For tickets and a complete schedule, call 713-227-2787 or visit www.houstonballet.org. $25 to $99.
Fri., Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 16-23, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 29, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 30, 2 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 6, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 7, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 12, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 13, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 20-24, 2 p.m.; Dec. 26-28, 2 p.m., 2008

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Dusti Rhodes
Contact: Dusti Rhodes