“Bee” Ashley Coupal leaps during the 2016 performance of “The Nutcracker.” (GTFotoFX)

“Bee” Ashley Coupal leaps during the 2016 performance of “The Nutcracker.” (GTFotoFX)

Sugar plums and lavender sparkle this weekend in ‘The Nutcracker’

PORT ANGELES — Crabs, lavender, Hurricane Ridge and Gregers M. Lauridsen: Some unusual — but not unfamiliar — features shine in a Ballet Workshop performance of “The Nutcracker” for the Juan de Fuca Foundation of the Arts this weekend.

Tickets for adults are between $15 and $35, depending on seating, and $10 for children 14 years old or younger.

They can be purchased online at jffa.org or in person at Port Book and News, 104 E. First St. in Port Angeles and Joyful Noise Music Center, 112 W. Washington St. in Sequim.

Set in Clallam County around 1895, the staging of this holiday classic trails young Marie and her brother Frank as they follow the Nutcracker Prince, dreaming of a fairy tale land where sugar plums dance and lavender sparkles in every field.

The third annual homegrown production, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s traditional “Nutcracker” score, pays tribute to the rich history of the Olympic Peninsula at the turn of the century.

This weekend, 90-minute performances take place at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the performing arts center of Port Angeles High School, 304 E. Park Ave.

“I think there is hometown magic in our version that goes beyond ballet,” artistic director Kate Long said in a press release.

“A lot of people [in 2015] told us that it was their first time seeing a ballet, and that they’d never expected the show to feel so personal.

“You could feel the pride the audience members took in the storytelling. It’s like they claimed it as their own.”

Lindsey Casad, executive director of the Ballet Workshop of Port Angeles, said the audience always remarks about “Chefs and Crabs” in Act 2 of the ballet, likely for the summer memories the scene conjures.

“We had grown men, women and kids of all ages come up to us after the 2015 premiere saying how nostalgic the show made them feel towards their memories growing up here,” Casad said. “We’re glad we can refresh those memories every Christmas season for our community.”

While much of the story line and choreography will not differ greatly from the past two years, the 2017 production will feature guest artists from the Oregon Ballet Theatre for the first time. Principal dancer Peter Franc plays the Nutcracker Prince, and Corps de Ballet artist Kelsie Nobriga plays the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Franc and Nobriga learned the Clallam County Nutcracker edition entirely over video, Long said. They will arrive today, 24 hours before taking the stage Saturday evening.

“High-caliber dancers work very fast,” she said. “It will be a huge privilege for our local young dancers to work alongside them this weekend and witness what professionalism looks like at that caliber.”

Local dancers range in age from 3 to 50 years old. At an average age of 12, this year’s cast is the youngest yet, Casad said.

But you wouldn’t know it.

The cast rehearsed five hours per week over two months to create uniformity on stage. Long also increased the difficulty of choreography for some third-year Port Angeles dancers, “little veterans” that have been with the production since its inception, she said.

At the end of Sunday’s matinee performance, First Federal Bank will present scholarships to four junior Ballet Workshop students between the ages of 6 and 11. In addition, four senior scholarship recipients, ranging from 12 to 18 years old, will be chosen by Franc and Nobriga on Saturday morning and announced onstage Sunday night.

In the future, the Ballet Workshop hopes to create more shows with two full casts so more local performers may take part, Casad said.

About 100 performers brought this year’s production to fruition — 22 more dancers than last year.

“We had a great audition turn out,” Casad said. “We expect to keep growing every year.”

Snow King” Noah Long, one of the Ballet Workshop’s directors, lifts “Snow Queen” Ashley Coupal. (GTFotoFX)

Snow King” Noah Long, one of the Ballet Workshop’s directors, lifts “Snow Queen” Ashley Coupal. (GTFotoFX)

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