The Annual VCA Nutcracker Returns After
By Daalny Meyer, Reporter
The Nutcracker, an annual ballet put on every Christmas season by Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA), is a performance composed of student dancers from Vashon Center for Dance and professional performers from around the area. The dancers work together to tell the classic holiday tale. The ballet was performed live on December 11th and 12th, coming back after a year without the live performance.
The process for putting on this traditional holiday show is long and complex, and the student dancers involved have a busy season full of preparations. The process starts in mid-September when the dancers choreograph and learn new pieces to add to the show, while also relearning the performance from videos of previous shows. Learning from videos makes The Nutcracker different from other shows put on by the VCA.
VHS Senior Arianna Vickers has been a part of The Nutcracker since she started dancing at VCA in third grade. In this year’s production, she danced as Dewdrop, the Waltz Queen, and the Cancan, as well as a snow lead, a marzipan dancer, and a teacake dancer.
Vickers noted the challenges presented this year, even with the usual schedule for putting on The Nutcracker.
“The core choreography for Snow and Waltz [of the Flowers], is pretty much the same every year,” Vickers said, “It’s been a little bit different this year. Since we haven’t performed in two years, people aren’t used to picking things up fast, which is hard. We spend, I want to say, an hour and a half of each class rehearsing [choreography] and rehearsing solos.”
Vickers has taken on more of a leadership role in the preparation leading up to The Nutcracker by teaching choreography and running rehearsals. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed by other dancers.
“I [have] to credit Arianna Vickers,” VHS Sophomore Sadie Choo, a dancer of 13 years, said. “She has really been pulling the weight, organizing all the group pieces, and keeping everything on track.”
This year, Choo performed in the dances Snow, Waltz of the Flowers, Teacakes, Sugar Plum, Coffee, Marzipan and English Toffee during this production. She also sees the differences between the production of The Nutcracker and other shows, as well as the changes COVID caused.
“[The Nutcracker is] definitely one of our bigger productions,” Choo said. “It’s smaller this year because of COVID regulations, but it definitely requires a lot more communication with students and personal learning efforts, as well as taking full advantage of the really supportive dance community that we have. We have some really amazing teachers and choreographers.”
Further along in the process of The Nutcracker, around Thanksgiving, the dancers transition to the theater. Due to a COVID positive case this year they were unable to move to the theater until a few weeks ago. Once in the theater, the dancers are able to adjust to the bigger space and work on finalizing aspects of the production.
“The week of the show we do tech, which is [when] we work on the lighting and with sets,” Vickers said. “Then we do [a] full run-through with tech so everybody gets to see what the lighting is going to be like.”
This transition to the stage is one of Choo’s favorite parts of production.
“When [we] first get into the theater, and we have all of this big space to use, we can really feel the space and connect with each other. [We] really get into the holiday vibe,” Choo said.
On the Thursday before the show, the dancers have a dress rehearsal, where they put on the full show with tech, music, and costumes.
“We practice quick changes and traffic with props,” Vickers said, “It’s chaotic, and it’s fun. The environment’s really cool.”
The Nutcracker is a great tradition both Vickers and Choo look forward to. Even though this year only allowed for two shows instead of the usual four because of COVID, the dancers still enjoyed the performances.
“It’s something that we all look forward to and have missed a lot,” Choo said,“One of my favorite parts is getting to be with my friends, but also, as you grow up in this program, you see kids younger than you that are growing up to do these really amazing pieces. You get to work with [them] as well as meeting some really awesome role models along the way.”
Vickers has found that performing, regardless of the production, is one of her favorite parts.
“[Performing is] this joy that I get from nothing else. But I also love hanging out backstage before and after and during, because the community that we’ve built and the friendships that we’ve made, [are] really strong. Most of my best friends are from the dance community. It will be different this year because of COVID, but I’m really looking forward to the energy, because there’s always really high energy onstage and off stage. It’s just a feeling I can’t put into words,” Vickers said, “The VCA is great; it’s a beautiful community. I highly recommend that [people] take classes if they want to. It’s [a] great experience.”