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The Joffrey Ballet's Christmastime classic The Nutcracker starts today, and the beloved Nutcracker Family Dinner is this Sunday. Just before she starts she stretching her legs for twirls and leaps through the Land of Sweets, we chatted with principal ballerina Anastasia Holden. Onstage, Holden dons sparkly tutus and flowing nightgowns to play the Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara; in real life, she's a self-described "urban hipster" who eschews ballet flats for Nike Sky Dunks. Read on to find out where she shops in Chicago, how she removes her makeup at night, and which spots she hits up for a post-rehearsal snack.
What's your offstage style like, and what are your favorite local places to shop for clothes, shoes, and accessories?
I oscillate between many styles but I might be categorized as an urban hipster. I have a pretty large collection of Nike Sky Dunks, which are perfect for comfort, support, and urban style. My go-to fall/winter outfit is a pair of skinny jeans and a chunky sweater.
I shop for clothes at places like Brooklyn Industries and Una Mae's in Wicker Park. I also find a lot of unique, but not local, stuff on Etsy, or on trips overseas. I've got some great go-to dresses from France and Spain. For accessories, I love Dovetail on Chicago Avenue, which carries unique, handmade-in-Chicago goods and vintage clothes. As far as shoes, I obviously go to the Nike store a lot, but Kokorokoko, also in Wicker Park, has a great selection of boots and other vintage stuff.
Are you a fan of ballet flats?
I'm not a fan of ballet flats, or flats in general. I'm only five foot one, so almost every pair of shoes that I own have some kind of heel. I only ever wear flats if our physical therapists insist on it for my lower leg health.
Onstage, what are your favorite 'Nutcracker' costumes?
I really enjoy wearing the Sugar Plum tutu because I feel like a beautiful ballerina when I put it on. But also because, as a kid when you think of success as a ballet dancer, you think of being the Sugar Plum fairy. So every time I put it on, I'm reminded of how lucky I am to have reached this level.
For me, The Nutcracker is also synonymous with Clara's nightgown. I've danced Clara for nine years now, and when I change into the nightgown, the ballet transitions into Clara's world of dreams with a dramatic battle and journey through the land of snow to the land of the sweets. This transformation is truly magical to experience and I hope it's as magical for the audience. At any rate, that's the reason that I love wearing Clara's nightgown.
Have you picked up any beauty tips from being made up as the Sugar Plum fairy?
Stage makeup is all about contouring your face with highlights and lowlights to create facial definition and make your features pop. While I would never recommend wearing as much makeup daily as I do onstage, a little bit of contouring can go a long way.
What are your favorite products for removing makeup and taking care of your skin when your not ontsage?
We have a sponsorship from M.A.C. Cosmetics for our stage makeup, but I also use a lot of their products to take care of my skin offstage. I love their Cleanse Off Oil for removing the massive amounts of makeup that I use onstage. M.A.C.'s Pro Eye Makeup Remover is great for taking off everyday liner and mascara, and I especially like their line of facial creams that leave my skin feeling really soft and nourished.
How about beauty tips from fellow ballerinas?
Sweat hard and sweat often—it keeps your pores clean! Seriously though, in order to look good, you have to feel good first. If that means getting a manicure, a massage, or making time for some retail therapy, the women I work with would say, go for it!
What are your favorite places in Chicago for healthy snacks?
For lunches around the studios, I frequent Pastoral or the Protein Bar, which are both healthy and tasty. For meals, I really enjoy cooking and baking at home, especially when I have really fresh, high-quality produce and meat. When possible I shop at local farmers' markets like the Logan Square Market on Sundays or the Green City Market, open year-round on Saturdays. This keeps my cooking seasonal and delicious! I'll supplement with trips to Whole Foods if there are ingredients that I can't get anywhere else.
When you're not practicing ballet, do you mix up your workout routine with other types of exercise?
I find yoga to be a great way both to relax and center myself, but also to stretch out muscles that I don't use for ballet. In the warmer months I'll bike or go hiking as a way of enjoying the weather, and occasionally join my boyfriend at the climbing wall. But generally I find that the exercise I get during work hours is plenty.
What would your ideal day of relaxation look like after an intense 'Nutcracker' run?
Sleeping in, a nice long massage, a hearty home cooked meal, and cuddling up on the couch with a good book and a glass of wine.
Last question: How will you dress up for New Year's Eve?
This New Year's Eve, my boyfriend and I will be in Mexico, so, weather permitting, I'll be in my bathing suit during the day and a colorful/tropical maxi dress in the evening.
· Joffrey Ballet [Official Site]
· Joffrey Ballerina Jeraldine Mendoza Loves M.A.C., Renegade Craft Fair [Racked Chicago]
· The Nutcracker Family Dinner [Official Site]
· See Inside the Joffrey Ballet's 'La Bayadère [Racked Chicago]