When ABT principal Stella Abrera posted a shot on Instagram of her husband, Sascha Radetsky, filming a ballet-themed holiday movie for The Hallmark Channel a couple of months ago, we got pretty excited. It's called A Nutcracker Christmas, and the plot goes something like this: Ballerina receives tragic news during Nutcracker season, leaves dance (and her onstage/offstage partner) behind and, years later, reconnects with her old life (and love) when her niece is cast in a local production of The Nutcracker. It sounds like just the sort of thing I want to watch while curled up on my couch with fuzzy socks and a mug of hot chocolate: Cheesy-but-adorable plot? Check. Bona-fide dancers (such as rising star Sophia Lucia) in snippets of The Nutcracker? Check. And of course, we get Radetsky, everyone's favorite former ABT soloist and Center Stage star (and Dance Magazine contributor), back on the silver screen. We caught up with him via email to find out about his role in the movie, his thoughts on acting and what else he's up to these days.
Tell us about your character in the movie, Mark.
For several years, Mark Anders was the leading male dancer at “The New York Ballet." When a tragic accident leads to Lily [Amy Acker], his girlfriend, leaving him and New York behind, Mark enlists in the Marines and deploys to Afghanistan. Once back Stateside, he circles around to ballet again, assuming artistic directorship of “The Philadelphia Ballet." When Lily arrives in Philly with her niece, Sadie [Sophia Lucia], whom he has hired to dance Clara, Mark sets about trying to win her back—with gentle persistence, kindness and plenty of goofy humor.
Have you seen the finished film yet? How much of The Nutcracker is in there?
I haven't seen it, so I'm not sure how much dancing will make the ultimate cut. But I remember we shot bits of the party scene, snow, Act II divertissement and the grand pas. Sophia and the other dancers, most of whom hailed from the National Ballet of Canada, did some great work.
Do we get to see you dance?
Yes, in one short scene. But I've been retired and out of class for over two years, so I think the correct question isn't whether you get to see me dance, but whether you have to endure seeing me dance!
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Strangely, it might have been the heaviest, most emotionally charged scene of the film, when Amy Acker's character, Lily, receives tragic news. Amy went to a very dark place for that scene—and stayed there for hours. Though we were stuck together in a cramped dressing room, I tried not to speak to her in between takes and camera setups, treating her like I would a pitcher throwing a no-hitter. I learned a great deal from her, during that scene and over the course of the entire shoot.
What drew you to this project?
It seemed a good opportunity to work on acting, the people involved were all great folks and the story was charming.
How has your interest in acting developed since your early film days with Center Stage? What keeps you circling back?
I guess my relationship with acting has been sort of complicated. It can be great fun (especially when dancing isn't involved, as the pace and hours of shooting aren't very compatible with dance), but it's a distinct art form, of course, one that requires talent, study and coaching. I always enjoy the challenge of acting, and it's something I'd certainly like to do more of, but it's a tough gig to chase if you can't be 100% committed.
You're also heading NYU's Ballet Pedagogy program—how is that role treating you? How do you balance it with other creative endeavors?
Running the ABT/NYU Master's in Ballet Pedagogy Program has been rewarding thus far. My students are intelligent and hungry to learn, and I feel the information and experiences we're giving them are valuable and unique to ABT. I'm grateful that my predecessor, the inimitably wise Raymond Lukens, has agreed to keep a presence in the program; also that several of my old coaches and colleagues have given talks and master classes. I've also been acting as ballet master with the ABT Studio Company. I'd say I'm able to balance my responsibilities by getting out of Dodge and into the mountains every now and then to hike, fly-fish and regroup.
Do you have any fun dance-related (or not dance-related) holiday traditions?
Well, being involved in The Nutcracker is the inevitable tradition, so we're rarely in the same place every year over the holidays—Nut guestings would scatter us far and wide. Now that I'm not onstage anymore, I try to visit family, hit the mountains or hang out with Stell as she Sugar Plums her heart out.
Tune in this Saturday, December 10 at 8/7c (that's tomorrow night, folks!) to see Radetsky and his costars in action.
All images: Christos Kalohoridis, Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC.