Millions of television viewers got to know Melissa Sandvig through appearances on last season’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
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Sandvig was among the top 6 finalists in the popular dance competition.
(FROM THE SHOW: applause “Melissa and Ade everybody!” applause)
But Melissa Sandvig’s appearance this weekend with the Sacramento Ballet is far from Hollywood hype. She’s a classically trained professional with an impressive resume. At age 29, she was oldest competitor and the first ballerina to appear on the TV show. She’s also a ballet teacher and a wife. And -- as she told me between Nutcracker rehearsals last week -- those relationships were key to her joining the competition.
“I had been watching the show since season one with my husband and he was kind of encouraging “you can do this, don’t you think you can do this? You should audition.” And my students of course are great and they think I can do everything so they kind of urged me to audition. So I did on a whim and great things happened. I’m glad they pushed me into it.”
It didn’t take much pushing from the Sacramento Ballet’s Ron Cunningham to recruit Sandvig for this year’s Nutcracker. Cunningham had been watching her career for years, but didn’t see her in person until fairly recently in Sandvig’s hometown of Long Beach.
“I performed an arial piece on silks and that’s when I first met him. And we’ve kind of stayed connected since then and so I knew what kind of a person and director he was and so I was happy to work for him.”
Sandvig says she appreciates how Cunningham works with kids, like the very young cooks in this rehearsal.
Over her two-and-a-half decades of Nutcracker shows, Sandvig has danced just about every role from little mice to Clara to the Snow Queen. But she’s never danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy until now.
“This is the first time. It’s a little nerve racking. I feel there’s a little extra pressure on me just from where I’m coming from. But it’s exciting, it’s something that every little dancer wants to do when they grow up."
This weekend, Sanvig will be sharing the stage with lots of little dancers… and she says she’s thrilled about that.
“The little kids are so sweet and you know I used to be one of them. I started when I was about 4 and-a-half or 5 and I remember looking up to the ballerinas, to the girls in their point shoes and it was so exciting for me back then, that I do want to try to be a good role model. ”
As the first ballerina to appear on So You Think You Can Dance, Sandvig was also something of a role model. But she says, a role model with a mission.
“That show seemed to gear more towards hip hop and contemporary which sometimes can be more exciting to watch for people who don’t know dance. So I wanted to prove that ballet isn’t just beautiful, it’s not easy, it’s just as challenging as all these other styles. And you know that it can be cool too. So I think I succeeded in my mission. They didn’t find another ballerina for the next season but hopefully in the future there’ll be more out there.”
And if there are more ballet dancers like Melissa Sandvig on television in the future… you can bet that so long as there’s a Nutcracker, there will be plenty of aspiring young dancers eager to watch.
Melissa Sandvig will share the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy with current Sacramento Ballet dancer Amanda Peet and former company ballerina Nina Baratova on opening night, Friday, December 11th and during a special matinee performance on Sunday, December 13th.