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Black Magic

Chyrstyn Fentroy makes history as the Snow Queen in Boston Ballet’s “Nutcracker”

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Black Magic
Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo: Angela Sterling/courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Boston Ballet’s opulent performance of “The Nutcracker,” running through Dec. 30, is a hallmark of the holiday season. Based on the novella of the same name by E.T.A. Hoffman, the ballet follows Clara as her magician uncle throws her into a world of fantasy with her new nutcracker doll. It features lavish costumes, jaw-dropping sets and this year, a groundbreaking number of dancers of color.

Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in a scene from “The Nutcracker.” Photo: Angela Sterling/courtesy of Boston Ballet

Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in a scene from “The Nutcracker.” Photo: Angela Sterling/courtesy of Boston Ballet

Most notable is the casting of company member Chyrstyn Fentroy as the Snow Queen. “Snow Queen is a major landmark in my career because it’s my first pas de deux (duet) with the Boston Ballet,” says Fentroy. “I am currently the only black female in the company and the first in ten years. So every role that I’m in represents every person of color who is working towards this.”

Fentroy grew up watching her mother, who is white, dance the Sugar Plum Fairy part in “The Nutcracker.” She herself has had roles in the production at other theaters since the age of 3. A role in last year’s Boston Ballet production was her first time in a professional run of the show. This year, to have a dancer of color in such a prominent role — arguably one of the most recognizable scenes in the show — is a huge milestone. Fentroy says the music in the scene is some of her favorite in the production. But having one major duet is just the beginning of Fentroy’s work. She also has nine other roles in “The Nutcracker” this year. 

Fentroy has approached the pas de deux differently now that she has a year of experience in the Company under her belt. She says she’s devoting her energy to finding new ways of movement because her role in the show has a core focus.

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The main company has several male black dancers including Lawrence Rines, who joined in 2011, and Daniel Durrett, who joined in 2017. The Boston Ballet II welcomed Tyson Clark in 2017 and My’Kal Stromile in 2018. Fentroy hopes that her presence on stage will inspire young people of color to explore all possibilities for their future. She also hopes audience members experience the same magic that she did as a child, watching her mother dance from the stage wings.

“I really love “The Nutcracker.” It’s the definition of Christmas for me,” says Fentroy. “People won’t remember how high my leg went or what steps I did, but they will remember the joy they felt while watching it. That’s what I hope to bring.”

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