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Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Rendition of ‘The Nutcracker’ Delivers Holiday Magic

This family-friendly story ballet is a holiday classic you won’t want to miss.

December 8, 2017

The Nutcracker, for many of us, embodies the spirit of the holidays. As a dance student growing up, The Nutcracker was not only the first ballet I saw a live performance of, it was also the story I found myself acting out from ages 7 to 20, through various roles and interpretations. I remember the constant struggle to “float” as an Angel on stage, trying not to slip on falling paper snow, watching from the wings in layers of petal-sprinkled taffeta, waiting for the first notes of “Waltz of the Flowers.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Dammiel Cruz as Dr. Stahlbaum, and PNB School student Samrawit Saleem as Clara, with company dancers in a scene from 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 24 – December 28, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Those memories are why Balanchine’s version of the classic story will always rank as one of my favorites. In it, dozens of young dancers are afforded the opportunity to perform alongside their professional role models. For some of them, it will be their introduction to the world of professional story ballets. For most of them, Clara’s journey to the Land of the Sweets will be one they eagerly relive, year after year.

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Joshua Grant as the Mouse King, faces off against PNB School students Tatiana Lipina (Hare Drummer) and Hugo Mestres (Nutcracker) in a scene from 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 24 – December 28, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.

The pure joy on the faces of the children involved in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production is testament enough to the value of their roles. They can leap around the stage in fabulous costumes and colorful sets (designed by children’s book illustrator and author Ian Falconer) to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Their participation gives them room to stretch their creative muscles and show off their evolving technical skillset. Watching them is a delight.

Eek! A mischief of mice! Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in a scene from 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 24 – December 28, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Also a treat, as always, are the acting chops and artistry displayed by the adult cast. The roles haven’t changed, but Balanchine’s choreography set on the dancers of PNB is no less entertaining. No matter which dancer assumes each character, the audience is sure to be as enchanted as Clara is as she watches from her throne.

The performance of real-life couple Sarah Ricard Orza and Seth Orza as Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier is one I would readily watch on repeat. Both incredibly talented Principals with PNB, their partnership on stage is spellbinding, with beautifully executed turns and lifts, all of which appear effortless as they look at each other with genuine adoration.    

Below, see a behind-the-scenes PNB video from 2016 of the Orzas prepping for Nutcracker (Sarah is now a Principal).

The Nutcracker runs through Thursday, December 28, 2017. For more information or to buy tickets, visit PNB.org.

Top image: Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in the snow scene from 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 24 – December 28, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.


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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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