Issaquah Dance Theaters: The Nutcracker

Ava Wine, Staff Writer

The Nutcracker has been a holiday tradition since 1986. Many come to see this ballet performance because of the very popular snow scene in which fake snow is sprinkled on to the stage and the Sugar Plum Fairy dances. Issaquah Dance Theater (IDT) has an annual production of the Nutcracker at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. IDT is a dance company that has competitions as well as classes for ages three through 18. If you would like to learn more about the Nutcracker story, go to Issaquah Dance Theater’s website. Many Issaquah School District students attend IDT and perform in The Nutcracker, so this is also a great way to support your peers.

Most people who live in Washington go to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s (PNB’S) Nutcracker. PNB is a professional company that has dancers in their Nutcracker from age seven to dancers in their thirties. IDT has the same story line to the professional company, but according to Hayley Maddox (a teacher at IDT), “We have additional roles for more children in the second act and Clara has pointe shoes and is older.”  Additionally, junior dancer Scarlet Riden says,” Our battle scene is a little different because of Clara’s pointe shoes.”

Tons of work goes into these one-to two-hour performances. Dancers start learning these pieces in early September, giving them around three and a half months to fully know and understand their role before they are ready to go to the theater. The work does not stop when they get to the theater though. Before every show there is an open stage time for the dancers to feel if the stage is slippery and have time to practice their role on stage before the audience arrives. Also, after the show dancers go over corrections and small mistakes that the teachers notice during the performance with the studio and artistic director. This makes sure that each show is improved and more organized.

The Nutcracker is a very relaxing and graceful dance to watch but is it the same for the dancers and teachers? Sophomore and dancer Emelia Ricchio has three roles including a lead role of the Tree Light Fairy. Ricchio says,” You are learning multiple dances and have to remember them in a short amount of time, so that puts a lot of pressure and stress on you.” The dancers that I interviewed have between two to four roles on average, meaning that they must learn many variations and perform different routines in the same show. Having different routines per show also adds stress to the dancers. Not only is this stressful for the dancers, but it is also stressful for the teachers and crew running the show. They have their regular schedule of classes with an additional roughly 18 rehearsals per week, not to mention having to oversee the backstage props, backdrops, costumes, timing, and the dancers.

Even with the stress of backstage, this is a super exciting and memorable time for all of the dancers. Issaquah High School Sophomore Kiki Bakker says that “getting to know people is my favorite part of the Nutcracker season.” This is especially true for people who are in group dances together because the dancers have rehearsals with each other and see each other for triple the amount they usually would in a week. This can create super close connections, especially if you have been doing the nutcracker for multiple years. Junior dancer Scarlet Riden says, “I have done The Nutcracker for twelve years.” The Nutcracker has become a regular thing in her life and has created many friendships with dancers who she might have never met. This year Riden had a lead role and she danced with students younger than her. This creates a very positive and open atmosphere because of the blending between dancers of all ages.

Overall, IDT’s nutcracker is a great way to create a fun experience with your family during the holidays or even make a new family tradition for the holiday season. Another benefit to watching the IDT’s Nutcracker is that it means you are supporting local businesses instead of a professional company and fellow Issaquah High School students who have put months of work and time into one magical weekend.