A guide to lo­cal pro­duc­tions of hol­i­day fa­vorite ‘Nutcracker’

The Olympian - - Front Page - BY MOLLY GIL­MORE Con­tribut­ing writer

“The Nutcracker,” about a young girl whose gift starts her on a hol­i­day jour­ney to mag­i­cal realms, is as­tound­ingly pop­u­lar for a bal­let — es­pe­cially one that was no big hit when it de­buted in 1892 in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia.

The num­ber of pro­duc­tions of the Christ­mas clas­sic “Nutcracker,” with mu­sic by Py­otr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is just, well, nuts.

It seems as though ev­ery bal­let com­pany, in­clud­ing Olympia’s Bal­let North­west and Stu­dio West, stages the story, which be­gins at a hol­i­day party and trav­els to the King­dom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets. And they stage it ev­ery hol­i­day sea­son, with­out fail, be­cause no other bal­let comes close to its name recog­ni­tion and pop­u­lar­ity with au­di­ences.

And this year, it’s trendy, too. Walt Dis­ney Co. has jumped on the band­wagon with the film “Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Though that fan­ci­ful take on the clas­sic bal­let has left re­view­ers as chilly as the weather this week (Rot­ten Toma­toes tally: 34 per­cent), its ex­is­tence is a sure sign of the cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance of this bal­let.

Lo­cally, South Sound Dance’s hol­i­day show gets a sprin­kle of Nutcracker, too, mean­ing that those who are nutty for Clara and com­pany can see up to three live vari­a­tions on the theme in Olympia.

That’s aside from “Four Realms,” though it looks like that film might not be in the­aters for long, and the hol­i­day pa­rade of ver­sions avail­able for stream­ing: Net­flix has “Ge­orge Balan­chine’s The Nutcracker” and a 1993 film star­ring Ma­caulay Culkin as the Nutcracker Prince, and Ama­zon Prime mem­bers have ac­cess to the 1977 “Barysh­nikov’s Nutcracker,” the 1986 “Nutcracker: The Mo­tion Pic­ture,” based on the Pa­cific North­west Bal­let pro­duc­tion, and sev­eral an­i­mated take­offs.

Let’s put it this way: You could fill at least 12 days of Christ­mas with “Nutcrack­ers.”

Here’s a bite-size guide to the lo­cal per­for­mances.

BAL­LET NORTH­WEST

Bal­let North­west’s 34th pro­duc­tion of “The Nutcracker,” open­ing Fri­day, adds danc­ing French mac­aron cook­ies to the Land of the Sweets and gives the showy snow pas de deux to Clara (danced by Natalie Al­len­ton, 14, of Olympia, a home­schooled sopho­more, and Nina Iva­nenko, 14, a fresh­man at River Ridge HIgh School in Lacey) and the Nutcracker Prince (Gio­vanny Garibay, 15, a sopho­more at Pope John Paul II High School in Lacey).

This year’s “Nutcracker” will be the first Bal­let North­west one in which Clara and the Nutcracker Prince will do that chal­leng­ing dance.

Ken John­son, the com­pany’s co-di­rec­tor, is ex­cited about the Land of the Sweets and King­dom of Snow sets by Jill Carter, which de­buted last year. “I think they re­ally brought the pro­duc­tion up to an­other level,” he told The Olympian. “They are some of the most beau­ti­ful Nutcracker sets that I have seen.”

Also danc­ing lead roles are Elina Brein, 17, of Cen­tralia, a ju­nior at the In­sight School of Wash­ing­ton, and Han­nah Cap­per, 17, a se­nior at Gig Har­bor High School, who’ll share the role of Sugar Plum Fairy. New York-based pro­fes­sion­als Dar­win Black and San­ford Placide will dance the Sugar Plum Cava­lier.

The Nutcracker pre­sented by Bal­let North­west per­for­mances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 and 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, 15 and 16 at The Wash­ing­ton Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, 512 Wash­ing­ton St. SE, Olympia. Tick­ets are $14-$35. In­for­ma­tion: 360-753-8586, wash­ing­ton­cen­ter.org

STU­DIO WEST DANCE THE­ATER

Stu­dio West Dance The­ater’s 10th an­nual pro­duc­tion brings the

hol­i­day spirit off stage with elab­o­rate dec­o­ra­tions that ex­tend the set from the the­ater space out into the lobby and a cou­ple of pre-per­for­mance par­ties tar­geted at chil­dren 3 and older that in­clude crafts and cup­cakes.

The com­pany also is mix­ing things up on stage with one per­for­mance called “The Nutty-Cracker,” set for Thurs­day, Dec. 13. That per­for­mance will fol­low the same lines as the tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion but add a few sur­prises. “There’ll be ran­dom quirky ap­pear­ances by char­ac­ters from other bal­lets,” Stephanie Wood-En­nett, the com­pany’s co-di­rec­tor, told The Olympian. “It’s not the tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion, that’s for sure.”

Danc­ing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy are Abi­gail Bunn, 15, a fresh­man at Tumwa­ter High School, and Han­nah Smith, 15, a sopho­more at Olympia High School. Alexan­dra Bunn, 15, a fresh­man at Tumwa­ter (and Abi­gail’s twin), and Emma Krug, 14, in eighth grade at Reeves Mid­dle School in Olympia, will dance Clara.

Cole McMa­son, 17, a se­nior at Keystone On­line School, will share the role of Cava­lier with Joshua Grant, a soloist with Pa­cific North­west Bal­let, and the role of Nutcracker Prince with Reese Berge­son, 14, a fresh­man at Cap­i­tal High School. He’s the first stu­dent dancer to take on the de­mand­ing Cava­lier role in a Stu­dio West pro­duc­tion.

The Nutcracker pre­sented by Stu­dio West Dance The­atre per­for­mances are at 5 p.m. Dec. 9 and 16, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15, 2 p.m. Dec. 15, and 1 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Min­naert Cen­ter for the Arts at South Puget Sound Com­mu­nity Col­lege, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia. Tick­ets are $8.50-$26. In­for­ma­tion: 360-753-8586, wash­ing­ton­cen­ter.org

The Nutty-Cracker pre­sented by Stu­dio West Dance The­atre will be per­formed at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Min­naert Cen­ter for the Arts at SPSCC. Tick­ets are $17-$26. In­for­ma­tion: 360-753-8586, wash­ing­ton­cen­ter.org

Clara’s Nutcracker Party will be at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 and noon Dec. 16 at the Min­naert Cen­ter. Tick­ets are $12 at wash­ing­ton­cen­ter.org

SOUTH SOUND DANCE

South Sound Dance is them­ing its hol­i­day per­for­mances around the hol­i­day fan­tasy, too. Its “Son of a Nutcracker” takes in­spi­ra­tion from both “Nutcracker” and the Will Fer­rell movie “Elf.”

All of the school’s dancers par­tic­i­pate in the per­for­mances, which fill up quickly with fam­ily and friends.

Son of a Nutcracker pre­sented by South Sound Dance has per­for­mances at noon and 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Olympia High School Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, 1302 North St. SE, Olympia. Tick­ets are $10 in ad­vance, $12 at the door. The 4 p.m. show is al­ready sold out. In­for­ma­tion: 360-918-2171, south­sound­dance.com

JEROME TSO Cour­tesy of Bal­let North­west

The Waltz of the Snowflakes con­cludes Act 1 of the Tchaikovsky “Nutcracker” bal­let.

Cour­tesy of Stu­dio West Dance The­ater

The Chi­nese dancers per­form for Clara in the Land of the Sweets.

JEROME TSO Cour­tesy of Bal­let North­west

The pas de deux with the Snow Queen in “The Nutcracker.”

Cour­tesy of Stu­dio West Dance The­ater

Clara wor­ries about dam­age done to her beloved Nutcracker.

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