Ballet Workshop members, from left, Courtney Smith, 18, Amelia Brown, 15, and Daphne Oakes, 14, all of Port Angeles, will be part of the troupe’s seasonal presentation of “The Nutcracker.” (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Ballet Workshop members, from left, Courtney Smith, 18, Amelia Brown, 15, and Daphne Oakes, 14, all of Port Angeles, will be part of the troupe’s seasonal presentation of “The Nutcracker.” (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

‘The Nutcracker’ returns with a young cast and guest performers

Nearly 100 Ballet Workshop students to dance

PORT ANGELES — When she was 3 years old, Courtney Smith saw “The Nutcracker” for the first time and, like many children, it inspired her to take ballet lessons. At 5, she played one of the mice in their battle against the toys led by the Nutcracker.

For the past seven years, Smith, 18, has taken on increasingly larger roles in the holiday classic. This weekend, she will dance the Bee in the Dance of the Flowers, the ballet’s second largest role, in the Ballet Workshop’s version of the annual holiday fairy tale set to Tchaikovsky’s score.

Also dancing signature solo roles will be Amelia Brown, 15, and Daphne Oakes, 14, who will alternate as the Snow Queen in the Waltz of the Snowflakes.

Aside from Smith, it is a very young cast, said artistic director Kate Robbins, and many are new to some of the ballet’s signature pieces.

“This year all of my flowers, they’re all first-year flowers, and all of my icicles are first-year icicles,” Robbins said.

“Those are very big ensemble parts, so I’m very excited to kind of like initiate them into what it means to take on that responsibility.

“They’ve worked really hard and I’m very impressed with what they’ve accomplished,” Robbins said.

The show will start at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Port Angeles Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave. Tickets are on sale on the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts website, tinyurl.com/a7dv5jhh, for $38 (premium); $28 (standard); $18 (economy); $15 (students ages 18-21 with valid ID); $10 (youth 17 and younger). Tickets are $5 more at the door.

Just fewer than 100 Ballet Workshop students ages 3 to 18 will be dancing — some of whom will perform five different parts.

“We have it down to a science,” said Robbins of the backstage activity and costume changes. “We know where everyone is supposed to be and who is in charge of which groups, and we have staff assigned to each group so that they all make it on stage on time.”

Robbins said the Ballet Workshop’s partnership with the Juan de Fuca Festival in presenting “The Nutcracker” has contributed to the success of the show by handling logistics like ticketing but also through community outreach.

“They really enrich the quality of our show by taking care of so much of the administration and the marketing,” Robbins said.

“They help us book our guest artists and put them up in hotels and take care of all the incidentals that make the flow of our show so much better.

“They get fliers for ‘Nutcracker’ out to the schools for us, and they make it so that as many kids as possible can get exposed to ballet.”

Smith said even though she had been dancing in “The Nutcracker” for as long as she could remember, it did not got easier because the roles became bigger and technically more difficult.

“It gets harder and harder,” Smith said. “You always want your performance to be better every year.”

For Oakes, the challenge of “The Nutcracker” was combining dancing and acting in one performance.

“I think about all the things I have to do, focus on my feet and my head,” Oakes said. “And the role.”

For Brown, having always to be on her toes (literally and figuratively) means dancing in “The Nutcracker” is never boring.

“Miss Kate always mixes it up, and every year she gives you something new to do,” Brown said.

New for Brown and Oakes this year will be partner dancing for the first time in lead roles when, as the Snow Queen, they perform a pas de deux with the Guardian of Olympus (the Prince, in other versions of the ballet) danced by Noah Long.

The Guardian of Olympus is one of many features in Ballet Workshop’s “Nutcracker” — along with crabs, salmon and lavender — that reflect its setting in Port Angeles in 1895.

For Smith, Brown and Oakes, one of the best parts of performing in “The Nutcracker” isn’t what occurs on stage, but what happens off it: being able to take class and rehearse with the guest artists. This year they are Jessica Lind and Christopher Kaiser of the Oregon Ballet Theatre who will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier.

“I like to watch them when they perform,” Smith said. “They have such stage presence.”

“You watch them and there are some things I say, ‘I want to be able to do that,’” Brown said.

________

Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

Performers with The Ballet Workshop take a bow at the conclusion of Saturday presentation of excerpts from The Nutcracker during the annual Teddy Bear Tea, part of the Festival of Trees at Vern Burton Community Center in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Performers with The Ballet Workshop take a bow at the conclusion of Saturday presentation of excerpts from The Nutcracker during the annual Teddy Bear Tea, part of the Festival of Trees at Vern Burton Community Center in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

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