When I was a little girl, The Nutcracker was the quintessential Christmas story- with it's accompanying classical music and beautiful dancing, it captures the true feeling of this season. I was mesmerized by Clara's adventure. The symphony, written by Tchaikovsky, was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman's (a German Romantic author of horror and fantasy) story, called The Nutcracker and The Mouse King. It was full of incredible detail and mystery.  Her beloved nutcracker, given to her by her God-father, transforms into a large dancing man, who leads her through his world of danger and intrigue.

Our original inspiration for this shoot was to create some over sized ornaments and props for a dance-inspired theme. We wanted some fun DIY projects combined with an authentic dancer, so Brittany ( of The House that Lars Built) and I searched our ballet connections, and we were pleased that Nicole Choules-Paul was willing to be our chosen dancer.

A former Ballet West dancer, Nicole showed up with a pair of her point shoes (she says she still has about 40 pairs in a closet at home from her dancing days) which she allowed me to paint faces on. She told us she danced The Nutcracker so many times, she lost count. We created large ornaments out of round balloons and silver paper for the tops, I created masks to accentuate the scary element to the ballet (which there already is with it's freaky rats etc.. ) Brittany and I painted the nutcrackers, and finished up the rest of the props just in time for Nicole to begin her magic. Aubrey Nelson was kind enough to do hair and make up, and Nicole was immediately transformed into her beautiful ballerina self- looking not a day shy of having left the stage.

The shoot was incredible with all of these women involved. Nicole looked like she was still dancing hours upon hours every day (this is a woman who is a mother of four children people!) Brittany was wonderful and charming and creative as always, and we helped each other finish up all of the props as Jessica Peterson (of Jessica Peterson Photography) bustled about, with her usual natural finesse and eye for beauty. Aubrey braided and brushed, and sprayed gold onto Nicole's hair, created a doll-like look for our dancer- she has a natural way of approaching each person she beautifies.

The rest is really self-explanatory.

Merry Christmas!

Photos by Jessica Peterson Photography, hair and makeup by Aubrey Nelson, Props and designs by Brittany Watson-Jepsen of The House that Lars Built, and myself, guest ballerina formerly with Ballet West, Nicole Choules-Paul.


  1. This was so fun! thank you for inviting me & being so creative



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