Behind the Scenes at Nutcracker

Curious about a typical day in the life of an SF Ballet dancer during our annual run of Nutcracker? We followed Soloist Esteban Hernandez and Corps de Ballet member Miranda Silveira around the War Memorial Opera House in 2016 for a behind-the-scenes look. 

Esteban hails from Guadalajara, Mexico and trained at The Royal Ballet School and The Rock School in Philadelphia before joining SF Ballet in 2013. He was promoted to soloist in 2017.

Miranda spent most of her childhood in Spain before joining SF Ballet School’s Trainee Program. In 2014, she was named a SF Ballet corps de ballet member after a year as an apprentice.

11:00am—Morning Commute

Esteban Hernandez on his morning commute.
(© Olivia Ramsay)


Every morning, Esteban commutes from Laurel Heights on his green Vespa, which he purchased right after Nutcracker season in 2014. He feels it’s the best way to get around San Francisco since the city is fairly small. Before a busy performance day, he tries not to think too much about dancing until he gets to the theater.

11:30am—Company Class

Company members in the War Memorial Opera House.
(© Olivia Ramsay)


Company class usually takes place in the Harold Christensen Studio in the ballet building, but during Nutcracker it is often held onstage in the War Memorial Opera House. Miranda stays calm and warms up her entire body in preparation for the day ahead. She thinks about how her body feels and mentally picks out a pair of pointe shoes to wear for the day’s performances. Esteban places himself at his regular spot—at the last bar in the back of the theater—and makes sure he activates every part of his body as best as he can. He says, “Company class is the best preparation for any role, any performance.”

1:30pm—Hair & Makeup

Miranda Silveira applies makeup.
(© Olivia Ramsay)


Miranda carefully pulls her hair into a bun as she prepares for her transformation into a Snowflake. She has also been cast as a Spanish dancer, a French Mirliton, Flower, and the “mean” maid for Nutcracker. She says, “As you know, I’m from Spain so I really enjoy performing the Spanish dance. I’ve taken Flamenco since a young age, and it’s fun to show that side of me.”

2:00pm—Matinee Performance

Miranda Silveira prepares to go onstage.
(© Olivia Ramsay)


As one of the Snowflakes, Miranda dances during a two-ton blizzard of theatrical snow at the end of Act I. She notes that it can be difficult to perform during all that snow, but she always looks forward to the climax when the music picks up and the snow flurries become a blizzard. After the Snow scene, she’ll quickly change into her French Mirliton costume for the Act II divertissements. “Twirling the ribbons while dancing is a challenge, but this role is another one of my favorites!”

5:00pm—Dinner Break

Between the two shows, Esteban runs over to a local restaurant for a meal. He also takes a 45-minute nap at the Ballet building so he's well rested before another round of Russian dances.

In the women’s dressing rooms, Miranda eats a bowl of pasta: “I find that it gives me the right kind of energy before a performance.”

7:00pm—Evening Performance

Esteban Hernandez stretches backstage.
(© Olivia Ramsay)


The center role in the Russian variation is one of Esteban's favorites. At intermission, he rehearses all of the major steps one time through and moves on to stretching to ensure his knees and ankles are warm. Esteban also enjoys performing the Chinese divertissement. “I have fun with it!” he says.

Meanwhile, Miranda prepares for the Flower scene by executing a complete barre warm-up using a chair as her barre.

9:30pm—Head Home

After a full day, Miranda and Esteban are both happy to go home and relax. Miranda enjoys the biggest meal of her day—usually a meat dish—and readies her pointe shoes if she has the time. Although she usually sews on her ribbons between rehearsals, Nutcracker season is such a busy time that she tries to prepare her shoes in bulk. Esteban also fixes a meal for himself and focuses on getting enough sleep, before waking up and hopping on his Vespa for another busy day of Nutcracker.

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