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Experience the Magic of the Holidays at PNB’s ‘The Nutcracker’

The Nutcracker never fails to transport its audience to a wonderland sure to charm onlookers of all ages.

November 28, 2016

The journey through Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker begins even before taking your seat. Upon entering McCaw Hall, you’re greeted by glittering Christmas decor and your pick of photo opportunities, where you can set yourself in scenery from the world of Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Seth Orza as Drosselmeier, with PNB School student Eden Anan as Clara in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by children’s author and illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig) and runs November 25 – December 28, 2016. Photo © Angela Sterling.

The characters and choreography of The Nutcracker vary widely depending on each producer’s interpretation of the original German tale, but the story remains recognizable. As soon as Tchaikovsky’s enthusiastic overture begins, the audience is flown — both by the music and by PNB’s inspired use of digital animation — through a snow-covered village to land at Clara’s front door, where guests are arriving for her family’s Christmas party.

Pacific Northwest Ballet PNB School student Eden Anan as Clara in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

As the familiar fable plays out, the audience may notice a distinguishing aspect of Balanchine’s Nutcracker: the number of young dancers who join in the fun. In PNB’s rendition, two full casts of 70 children from the Pacific Northwest Ballet School play parts, from party guests in the first act to candy canes in the Land of Sweets. The miniature danseurs may not always hit all the steps or be completely in sync with their comrades, but on stage their joy and exuberance only help to uplift the enchanted audience.

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Miles Pertl as the seven-headed Mouse King, and PNB School student Ethan Arrington as the Nutcracker in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

The Nutcracker will no doubt impress dance fanatics who appreciate the technique of the professionals. Herr Drosselmeier — in his signature cape — delights the onstage guests and theatergoers alike with his Harlequin and Columbine dolls — ballerinas using robotic movement not-so-easily executed in pointe shoes. After the epic battle between the toy soldiers and the mice, Clara floats away into the wintry forest, guided by energetic snowflakes that fly weightlessly across the stage.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in the snow scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. P

In the Land of Sweets, the lead Candy Cane (played by a buoyant James Moore on opening night) performs gravity-defying stunts using only a hula hoop. The representation of Coffee (Laura Tisserand) shows off her enviable leg extension. Noelani Pantastico is perfection as the Dewdrop, flanked by a bouquet of Flowers in bright petals.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Laura Tisserand as Dewdrop, with company dancers in the Waltz of the Flowers from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

Leta Biasucci’s dazzling smile never leaves her face, even while performing the intricate petit allegros that the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy demands, along with her Cavalier (Benjamin Griffiths) who makes challenging turn combinations appear effortless. The roaring applause that each of their performances garners is well-deserved.Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Leta Biasucci as the Sugar Plum Fairy, with PNB School students in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

Of course, the captivation of this traditional holiday tale would not be complete without the set and costume designers, whose work shines throughout the entire production. Combined with the dancing, the richly-colored fashion, oversized scenery and visual effects ensure a magical show, whether you’re watching it for the first or the fortieth time.Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Joshua Grant as Mother Ginger, with PNB School students in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 28, 2016. For more information and to buy tickets, visit Pacific Northwest Ballet’s website.



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Morgan McMurray

Morgan McMurray is a writer and editor based in Seattle. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies.

Read more of her work on her personal blog and at Law Street Media.

More stories by Morgan McMurray

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