Ballet Northwest brings the Nutcracker back to the Washington Center

by Jennifer Crain for OLY ARTS

Once again, the stage at the Washington Center will be filled with mice, soldiers and snowflakes in Ballet Northwest’s 34th annual production of The Nutcracker.

Ken Johnson, co-artistic director of Ballet Northwest, says this is a landmark production year for the 48-year-old company. They redesigned the scenery for the opening party scene several years ago. This year, they debut new scenery for both the Snow scene and The Land of the Sweets. Designer Jill Carter spent 615 hours researching and designing the scenery. Sixteen local professional scenic artists and hundreds of volunteers spent 1,900 hours painting them.

“It’s really going to be impressive,” Johnson said. “Seeing it in person really has surpassed our expectations, and I think it will bring real magic to the production.”

Carter started from scratch, working with the company to re-imagine each backdrop. She studied Japanese winter woodprints for the Snow scene, which resulted in “a more open and lacey design to the snow-laden branches.” For the Land of the Sweets, the “looping shapes and fluid curves were very inspiring and lent themselves naturally to be recreated out of candy swirls,” she said.

The cast is comprised of more than 200 dancers, from age eight through adult.

“Kids and families devote their autumn and their holiday season to the production. It really is a family effort,” Johnson said. “One of the things that’s so special is seeing what a magical experience it is for them.”

This year, Clara will be performed by eighth-grade students Abigail Meier and Ellen Maclay, the Prince by Anthony Gamroth and Jacob Drein and the Sugar Plum Fairy by Emily Walter and Monica Tsien. Walter and Tsien, high school seniors, have studied at nationally recognized summer programs.

This is Ken and Josie Johnson’s tenth anniversary as artistic directors of Ballet Northwest, and Ken Johnson notes that their first Nutcracker with the company was both Walter’s and Tsien’s first year in the production. As eight-year-olds, they both appeared in the fight scene. “It’s really satisfying to see them and the other dancers grow and progress through the ranks.”
WHAT Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker

WHERE The Washington Center for the Performing Arts
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

WHEN 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, 15 and 16; 2 p.m. Dec 9, 10, 16 and 17.

HOW MUCH $17-$36. Student, senior and youth discounts available. Student rush tickets go on sale one hour before curtain.

LEARN MORE 360-753-8586 | The Washington Center