Classic holiday ballet, The Nutcracker, returns to VCA with some surprises

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When the curtain rises at Kay Hall on December 13,14, and 15, the beloved overture to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker will transport audience members back in time to a Victorian parlor on a snowy Christmas Eve, where Vashon Center for Dance (VCD) dancers will portray Clara’s enchanting world and vivid imagination in The Nutcracker ballet.

For almost two decades, VCD has presented the timeless holiday story to island families and friends. This year — like a gift from Drosselmeyer — the classic ballet will include some surprises. Vashon Center for Dance Director Vadne White — to her own surprise — said she counted 10.

“It’s practically a new ballet,” she said. “There’s new choreography for Doves, Arabian Coffee, Chinese Tea, Tarantella, Russian Tea Cakes, and a solo for Clara and the Dew Drop Fairy. Our Costume Mistress, Kate Guinee, created all new costumes for Snow plus there’s a brand-new sleigh.”

And then there’s the unexpected tap solo for Fritz, or as he’s been dubbed, Tapping Fritz. According to White, Johnny Joyce “has been relentless in asking me if I would ever consider having a Tapping Fritz. Since it was his idea, I gave him the role.”

Clara’s role will be more technically demanding than past years and performed by advanced-level students, Sadie Choo and Sophie Hancock. Returning as The Nutcracker Prince, Gus Holmes has an updated role with more partnering and lifts.

“Our Sugar Plum Fairy will be danced by Gwen Burwell, who has a lovely regal presence on stage and beautiful technique,” White added. “The Dew Drop Fairy is a new role and brilliantly danced by the fantastic Mia Giovanna Kuzma. I’m excited that Jonathan Kuzma will return as Drosselmeyer, and Sarah Alexander again will delight the audience and cast with Granny’s Antics.”

Modern dancers will kick up their heels in the Russian dance, while tap dancers tap away as Toy Soldiers and 13 adults enact the parents, aunts and uncles in the Party Scene. White, Crissy Baker, Vanessa Wiley, Christine Juarez, Kathleen Bonner and Julie Gibson all contributed choreography to the show, which includes more than 100 dancers.

Behind the scenes, the cast of characters is no less impressive. Oahn Garvik, previously of Houston Ballet, provided rehearsal coaching and student guidance, while Baker worked diligently to facilitate all aspects of production. Parent volunteers jumped in to help, including Zoe Barlow managing the Green Room; Tricia Thompson, who together with her husband, Clint, built the new sleigh, overseeing props; Jonathan Kuzma bringing his vast knowledge and hands-on effort for larger props; and Jodi Burwell, Rebecca Lanphear, Zoe Rothchild and Larissa Web, members of VCD’s Parent Advisory Committee, organizing surprises slated for intermission.

As for the students, in addition to the magic of Clara’s dream, there’s the real-life magic and surprising motivation that comes from performing The Nutcracker year after year.
“From the dancer’s perspective, they see themselves progress through the roles,” White said, “so the annual production is a measure of their achievements. And since The Nutcracker is done by all the professional companies, it is relevant to them. They see it as really important to their chosen art form.”

Tickets are available at VashonCenterForTheArts.org

Performances:
Friday, December 13, 7pm
Saturday, December 14, 1pm & 7pm
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
$17 General, $15 Senior, $13 Member/Student, $20 at the door