Ashleigh Prince spoke with Nayara Lopes from The Nutcracker about her career, the show and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Ashleigh: Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. I know that everyone is buzzing about The Nutcracker. It’s coming and it’s here! November 26 – 28, we’ll have magic on our stage again. To celebrate that, we have Nayara Lopes to talk about The Nutcracker and her role as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Hi, Nayara! 

Nayara: Hi everyone! 

Ashleigh: Before we get into the enchanting story of it all, would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners? 

Nayara: I’d love to! My name is Nayara Lopes, I am from Brazil but have been in America for 12 years now. Now, I’m in Philadelphia Ballet as a first soloist, but before that I was in the school of ABT for two years. Then, I went touring on the ballet with the second company, the National Ballet of Canada for two years, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem for three years. 

Black and white headshot of Nayara Lopes.
Nayara Lopes

Ashleigh: Quite the history! If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get interested in dance? 

Nayara: Well, I never really wanted to dance. I wanted to be a runner because I’m very active. If you get to know me, I’m always trying to do something with more energy, and I thought ballet was a little bit boring. But, my sister started ballet when she was seven, and when I was six years old, I wanted to copy her and do everything she did. I went to one of her rehearsals and I thought it was so pretty and she looked like she was having so much fun, so I started dancing because of her, and she stopped. I fell in love with it and I had a lot of talent.

My dance teachers always said to my mom, “She can be a professional, you should push her.” So that happened, I just fell in love and now I’m a professional ballerina.

Nayara Lopes

Ashleigh: What a dream come true! It’s so interesting. You’ve obviously danced in numerous companies, what roles have you played so far in your career? What are your highlights, or favorite roles that you’ve had so far?

Nayara: I have to say, I’m pretty fortunate that I’ve performed so many solos and dream roles, but the role that has been a highlight for me was Aurora. The Nutcracker always has been my favorite, and I’m not just saying that because it’s Nutcracker time. I did Kitri with a principal role, but my show was cancelled due to COVID. That would’ve been the highlight of my career, but things happen. One day! 

Ashleigh: As you probably know by now by interacting with Jennifer Agbay, our director of dance here at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory, we have a very extensive list of classes that students can take to build their acting, dance, or writing career. I think that some of the advice that a lot of our students get is to take a ballet class, because it trains them in numerous ways. I’m curious to hear what you think of that, and how you think ballet shapes someone as a performer in general. 

A photo from The Hanover Theatre's production of The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is leaping across the stage with young dancers dressed as mice and nutcrackers standing behind them.
The Nutcracker, 2019 (Mike Nyman)

Nayara: Ballet requires a lot of discipline, so that is incredible for a kid because they understand how to deal with things, they learn how to deal with their body when they’re tired, or how disciplined you are as a person. I also think that ballet uses a lot of coordination, so it is great for a kid that doesn’t really know if they love ballet. But, once you start to love ballet, it involves who you are as a person, how you treat yourself and others and how much you want to give. The moment you work so hard and go on stage and you feel the audience backing you, that’s why dancers love what we do.

I would recommend ballet because I feel like it changes a human being because of my experiences on the stage. Ballet has given me so much discipline in what I want to do, and has given me a routine which is very important.

Nayara Lopes

Nayara: I always say “Don’t push it” because ballet is a very hard career and it crushes you most of the time. You have to be really strong. It’s all about your heart and your personality, and you can see it right away when you’re on stage. You can feel that someone loves something and wants to share something that is so difficult, but we try to make it delightful.  

Ashleigh: Absolutely. I think our audiences really look forward to seeing The Nutcracker every year and seeing the art that comes out of our Conservatory. We’re all very proud of them and our students. I’m wondering, how did you “jeté your way” to The Hanover Theatre for this production of The Nutcracker? 

Nayara: I danced for Jennifer [Agbay] eight years ago because I had a good friend that knew her. Last year in the pandemic, I was teaching her class for her students.

Jennifer Agbay and I reconnected and she invited me to be her Sugar Plum, which was so nice. I was able to come back as a Sugar Plum after a few years and I’ve matured, so I’m so excited to be there.

Nayara Lopes

Nayara: In the small world that dance is, we all know each other and by knowing someone, we get opportunities. It’s also so nice to see how big The Hanover Theatre is and how much you’ve grown. It’s so exciting to be back. 

The set of The Nutcracker at The Hanover Theatre. Sweets shop and stores fill the streets as patrons shop around.
The Nutcracker 2019 (Mike Nyman)

Ashleigh: It’s so exciting to be back on our mainstage! We’re all very eager to see this production on November 26 – 28. If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, what are you waiting for? Do not miss this enchanting production and don’t miss Nayara Lopes! She’s clearly a very talented lady and we couldn’t be more excited to see these dancers grace our mainstage. If you need to get tickets, please visit TheHanoverTheatre.org or contact the box office at 877.571.SHOW (7469).  

Nayara: I’m so excited to be the Sugar Plum Fairy this year and I hope to see you there! What we’re bringing in is not just dance, it’s what we love to do. After the pandemic, we just want to share. I want to share my passion and it’s going to be beautiful. See you there!