What exactly is an understudy? An understudy is one who performs in a smaller role or roles while also training alongside cast members with a lead or feature parts. Understudies often fill a vital job in a production if called upon due to illness, injury or any number of unexpected events rendering a lead dancer unable to perform.
Being cast as an understudy is a privilege. It gives a dancer the opportunity to learn from those more experienced by watching and listening. Understudying is part of the process in developing a higher level of skill and the possibility of growing into a part. It is not however a guarantee the dancer will step in at intermission, should injury strike, or stake claim to the role in the future. Being an understudy is an opportunity for a dancer to improve.
As a member of the audience, you will more often than not ever know who the understudies are for a given production. All of the lead dancers in this year’s Nutcracker have at one time or another been an understudy. While all of the understudies in this year’s Nutcracker have been given the opportunity to hone their craft, even if they never have the chance to perform the role they have understudied.