Video: Sterling Hyltin Prepares for Her Final Bow at NYCB

December 2, 2022

On Sunday, December 4, New York City Ballet principal Sterling Hyltin will take her final bow after nearly 20 years with the company, dancing as the Sugarplum Fairy in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

Originally from Amarillo, Texas, Hyltin joined NYCB’s corps de ballet in 2003, rising to soloist in 2006 and principal in 2007. Known for her free, sweeping movement quality, Hyltin is retiring at the peak of her powers to spend more time with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter. “I had her at the beginning of the pandemic and was with her for 15 months,” Hyltin told Pointe at a recent rehearsal. “Every day there’s something new and fresh and delightful about her and I don’t want to miss those moments.” She’ll continue to teach at the School of American Ballet, where she is on faculty, and serve as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

This fall Hyltin said goodbye to many of her most famous roles, including the Novice, from Jerome Robbins’ The Cage; the Sleepwalker, from Balanchine’s La Sonnambula; and principal roles in Vienna Waltzes, Duo Concertant, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Symphony in Three Movements. But she saved Nutcracker for her last dance. In this video exclusive, Hyltin explains why Balanchine’s holiday classic has a special place in her heart, shares her approach to the Sugarplum Fairy, and reflects on her long career.

Fun Facts

Favorite Nutcracker ritual: “Every show that I’m on, I always go to the wings to watch the tree grow. It makes me cry every time, because it keeps going and going as the music builds.”

Keeping it fresh:Nutcracker is the one ballet that NYCB always returns to every year, so I try to apply what I’ve learned in other repertory roles that happened the previous year,” Hyltin says. “For instance, when we did La Sylphide, we were really coached on pantomime. And there’s so much pantomime that Sugarplum has with the children in the beginning of Act II, so the next time Nutcracker came around I focused on improving that.”

Advice for dancers: “Have gratitude and stay present,” she says. “When I became pregnant, I really started watching more because I knew I was going to be away [from the stage] for the first time. I always stood in the wings, but maybe not at the top of the show, and I wish I had done that more. Be present, because these moments are so precious.”