Jamie Gray Hyder learned a lot while making the Hallmark Movies Now film Sugar Plum Twist.
She found out about la parranda, a Puerto Rican tradition similar to Christmas caroling. She got a quick education in Latin dance and music and she also discovered that ballet can be incredibly painful.
“I was sore,” Hyder said during a Facebook Live interview with her co-stars to promote the movie. “I have so much respect for…any type of dancer.”
Hyder had no formal dance experience before she made the movie, something she repeated to the producers and casting director “multiple times,” she said.
The former star of Law and Order: SVU learned through 6-hour days of training before she began filming the Hallmark movie back in October.
“We stayed in good shape but the training was intense,” she said.
Ballet with a twist
In the movie, which is streaming on Hallmark Movies Now, Hyder plays Natalia, a retired professional dancer who returns from New York City to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. She agrees to help a local company with its production of The Nutcracker.
“With my character, one thing that inspires me about her is that even though she’s left one version of her career behind, she still wants to be involved in the industry,” Hyder said. “I think what’s most admirable about her is that she really wants to inspire other people to be successful.”
While working with the company, Hyder’s character, Natalia, becomes friends with dancer Vivíana (played by Laura Rosguer), who was disappointed when she didn’t land the coveted role of Sugar Plum Fairy in the show.
Natalia learns about Puerto Rican Christmas traditions from Vivíana’s family, including la parranda, which her co-star Ektor Rivera described during the interview.
“Basically we go to any neighbor, to any house,” said Rivera. “They are sleeping, and we go to their house, and we just surprise them with music. We expect the lights to go on and we just want to go inside your home and just eat whatever you have for us.”
The tradition inspires Natalia to re-imagine The Nutcracker. As her character says in a preview for the movie, “What if we choreograph ‘Sugar Plum Fairy goes Latin?’”
With help from Vivíana and Ektor’s character, lighting designer Mateo, she recreates the iconic “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” using Latin dance moves and music.
“Let’s just say it’s The Nutcracker with a little bit of spice,” Rosguera said.
Sugar Plum Twist is streaming on Hallmark Movies Now. It will premiere on Hallmark Channel Friday, December 17 at 8/7c.More: Hallmark Movies Now