Dance Arts Theater will bring their 25th anniversary performance of “The Nutcracker” to local audiences on Nov. 24 and 25 at Bremerton High School Performing Arts Center.
The group’s production is a local custom, but the faces have changed over the years. The dancers in the company range from 11 to 24 years old. Not a single company member in this year’s production was born when the outfit first performed the ballet 25 years ago.
The upcoming performance is one of two ballets the dance company puts on each year, in winter and spring.
“It’s a nice way to start off the holiday season,” said Irene Miller, owner of Irene’s School of Dance and the ballet’s artistic director. “It’s just a tradition.”
For audiences the ballet may mark the beginning of the holidays, but for the dancers, work begins as early as August.
Every year, young dancers from Kitsap County audition for spots in the theater. The ballet company offers experienced dancers the opportunity to dance more throughout the year.
The theater is the nonprofit branch of Irene’s School of Dance. Miller helped start the dance company in 1979. The company’s board is composed of dancers’ parents.
Once accepted by the company, all dancers are given a spot in “The Nutcracker” performance, but the competition doesn’t stop there. They each must still audition for individual parts within the production.
Robyn Harvey, an eighth-grade student at Poulsbo Middle School, was given the lead role of Clara. She says she was confident she had the part after her audition.
“I just sort of had a feeling,” she said.
This is the biggest role she has played to date, but she didn’t appear nervous during dress rehearsal, only eager to perform.
“I can’t wait (un)til we actually get to the stage,” Harvey said.
Harvey did admit that the role was more of a challenge than perhaps any she’d had in the past. She prepared for her part by putting in extra hours before each rehearsal.
The Nutcracker was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, but Miller has restaged the choreography to fit the stage and skill level of her dancers.
Mekenzie Thompson and Shannon Sandy, juniors at Klahowya Secondary and North Kitsap High School, respectively, are cast as the Dew Drops in the Waltz of Flowers. According to Thompson and Sandy, this 25th anniversary performance should be especially entertaining, as they’ve mixed things up a bit from their normal routine.
They did “some things that Irene’s been wanting to do for a while,” Thompson said, such as changing the Russian dance from a group act to a solo.
In addition to the local performers in the company, Dance Arts Theater will welcome two guest dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet, the dance company that stages “The Nutcracker” in Seattle year after year.
Lindsi Dec will dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy alongside Karel Cruz, who plays the role of her cavalier. The two have brought their skills to Dance Arts Theater’s performance of The Nutcracker once before, in 2006.
Since their last appearance, the two have each increased in status at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Dec was promoted to soloist in 2009; Cruz was promoted to soloist in 2007 and then to principal dancer in 2009.
The pair have had additional cause to celebrate in the interim, as they’ll make their return to the area as a married couple.
Miller spoke of the couple’s pas de duex (dance for two) as a sight to behold. Their last performance was memorable enough that Thompson and Sandy, despite being in the fifth grade in 2006, remember the dancers as both nice and exceptionally talented.
Other than Dec and Cruz, the dancers are all local.
Dance Arts Theater is not the only dance company in Kitsap County set to perform “The Nutcracker” this winter. Olympic Performance group, Dance Ensemble Northwest and Peninsula Dance Theater all have upcoming productions of the ballet in Bainbridge, Poulsbo and Bremerton respectively.
Ballet enthusiasts can always travel across the Sound to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production, with choreography by Kent Stowell and sets by Maurice Sendek, author of “Where the Wild Things Are.
But sometimes amateur sets are more beautiful than those professionally crafted, and sometimes the dancing of the girls who live down the street can be more magical than that of the critically acclaimed performer in Seattle.