Megan Fairchild gets plum role in 'Nutcracker'
Salt Lake City native Megan Fairchild will be dancing her way into millions of living rooms across the country Wednesday. That's when PBS will present New York City Ballet's production of George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" as part of a Live from Lincoln Center series.
The night before, Tuesday, Fairchild's performance with the world-renowned ballet company is showing for one night in theaters nationally. Because this "Nutcracker" was filmed live and in one take, viewers will see the same performance as the audience in New York City.
Fairchild is excited about national exposure, which provides an opportunity for her dancing to be seen by friends and family members, including many who haven't seen her work since she left Utah for New York City 10 years ago. In addition, she's especially pleased that a rebroadcast will air for U.S. service men and women around the world on Christmas Eve.
"I would never pass up the opportunity to perform, and hopefully bring joy to the men and women who serve our country," Fairchild said. "I also hope that children who wouldn't otherwise see a live 'Nutcracker' get to experience the magic of this wonderful ballet."
What's unusual about Fairchild's Utah-to-New York City dance journey is that she's had company along the way. She became a principal dancer with NYCB in 2005; her younger brother, Robert, now 24, earned the same status in 2009.
Growing up in Sandy, Fairchild was 8 when she first saw Ballet West's "Nutcracker," which was choreographed in 1944 by Willam Christensen still lovingly referred to locally as Mr. C. She was shocked to see children her own age onstage, and the next year she auditioned. At 27, she has been onstage every Christmas for nearly 18 years.
"I'm finally really comfortable with dancing Sugar Plum Fairy," Fairchild said. "This ballet means so much to me that when they first gave me the role, I didn't feel worthy."
In 1996, when Megan was 12 and Robert was 9, the siblings performed as Clara and Fritz in Ballet West's "Nutcracker."
Later, both Fairchilds were accepted into the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet Megan in 2000, Robert in 2003. At the time, their parents, John and Jan Fairchild, didn't really comprehend what that meant. "We are really proud of them," said Jan Fairchild, a clinical dietitian at Intermountain Healthcare. "But we weren't really dance people, so our emphasis was on education and wanting them to be good people." John Fairchild is a supervisor for Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources.
The Fairchild family enjoyed watching the 1993 "Nutcracker" video with Macaulay Culkin, never realizing it was with the New York City Ballet, the company that would later hire their children. "My family just called it the Macaulay Culkin 'Nutcracker,' " Fairchild said with a laugh.
Fairchild's first Utah dance teacher, Kaelynne Oliphant, recognized her abilities. "Megan was a prodigy from day one, and I felt such a responsibility to her and to the art form, to guide and advise her to the best of my ability."
The teacher and student remained connected after she left Oliphant's Sandy studio, Dance Concepts, to study at Ballet West Conservatory (now Academy). Last summer, when Megan married fellow NYCB principal dancer Andrew Veyette, Oliphant helped with planning, making the name cards and addressing invitations in calligraphy.
"I stressed to Megan what Mr C. said to us when we were his students: 'Your very first obligation is to the art form and whatever role you do on the stage, it is not for your personal gratification but in respect to the art form,' " Oliphant said.
University of Utah associate professor Sharee Lane said she first noticed Fairchild while teaching at a two-week Ballet West summer dance camp in the 1990s. Lane invited her to study at the Ballet West Academy and later advised her to accept the year-round invitation to study at the School for American Ballet.
"At age 12, when Megan first put on pointe shoes, they were instantly part of her feet," Lane said. "She worked so naturally in them. She was a technical dancer because she had such a natural facility she had an intuitive way of moving and her musicality was uncanny for someone her age. She just incorporated the technique, the artistry and music together."
The odds are stacked against anyone becoming a principal dancer, especially in a company as selective as NYCB. Since its formation in 1948, there have been fewer than 700 NYCB company members with approximately one-third of those rising to principal. Rarer still are two siblings rising through the ranks.
Jan Fairchild believes her daughter's Utah teachers paved the way for her professional dance career, while humbly adding that some of her children's success came after being in the right place at the right time. "When Megan and her husband, Andrew, first met, he called her Megan unFairchild because everything just seemed to come so easily for her."
George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker"
On TV • KUED Channel 7 will air "The Nutcracker" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, featuring Sandy native Megan Fairchild, 27, in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
In movie theaters • Eleven Utah theaters will show a live screening of New York City Ballet's production at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, also featuring Fairchild.
Screenings will be at:
University Mall • 1010 S. 800 East, Orem
Cinemark Bountiful • 206 S. 625 West
Cinemark Draper • 12129 S. State St.
Cinemark Farmington • 900 W. Clark Lane
Tinseltown • 720 W. 1500 North, Layton
Tinseltown Newgate • 3651 Wall Ave.
Cinemark 16 Provo • 1200 Towne Centre Blvd.
Cinemark 24 • 7301 Jordan Landing Blvd., West Jordan
Holiday Village 4 • 1776 Park Ave., Park City
Salt Lake City 16 • 125 E. 3300 South, South Salt Lake
Union Heights 16 • 7670 Union Park Ave., Midvale
Tickets • Available at http://www.fathomevents.com or at the theater.