Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker takes a bow.

The snow scene from the Sendak/Stowell Nutcracker

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker has been a holiday tradition in the Seattle area for more than 30 years. But this season is the last for the ballet, designed by the late author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, with choreography by former PNB co-artistic director Kent Stowell.

Current PNB artistic director Peter Boal announced earlier this year that, starting in 2015, his company will present a new production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, with sets and costumes by Ian Falconer, creator of the Olivia children’s books.

“We felt so much love coming out of the community for this (Sendak/Stowell) production,” says Boal. But he stresses that fondness hasn’t translated into ticket sales in recent years. “At the end of the day, we made the decision to refresh, to renew.”

Kent Stowell wonders about the wisdom of tinkering with a holiday tradition. “It’s an iconic production for our profession, and it’s an icon for the city,” he says. “It’s like if we said, ‘Well, I have a great idea for a new Space Needle, so we’re going to tear it down and do another one.’”

Seattle-based dance writer Sandra Kurtz agrees that jettisoning the Sendak/Stowell ballet could be a tactical mistake for PNB. She says it distinguishes PNB from companies around the country that present Balanchine’s Nutcracker. “It never lost its ‘wow’ factor,” she says. But Kurtz thinks the holiday classic is resilient, and ultimately a new Nutcracker will probably find an audience in Seattle.

PNB principal dancer Carla Körbes agrees. Körbes spent six years at New York City Ballet, where she danced in Balanchine’s Nutcracker. She says it will take time for the PNB dancers to learn the Balanchine choreography but adds, “I think it’s going to be exciting for everybody to try something different.”

PNB’s Peter Boal is confident both his dancers and his audiences will grow to love the Balanchine Nutcracker. “Everybody is attached to the Nutcracker they grew up with, the first one they saw,” he says. In Boal’s case, it was the Balanchine production, which he saw as a child and danced in hundreds of times during his own performing career at NYCB. “I know the Balanchine production so well, and I have such great faith in that choreography, the magic that it’s brought to so many audiences over the years,” he adds.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s final performance of the Sendak/Stowell Nutcracker is December 28. DT

For more:

Marcie Sillman is an award-winning arts reporter based in Seattle. Her radio stories have been featured on NPR, Voice of America and other networks.

Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of PNB

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How does your studio handle enrollment for boys? Photo courtesy of Shona Roebuck

I recently set up a classical ballet partnering master class for my youth dance company. A pas de deux class, if you will—think Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, etc., chock full of promenades, pirouettes and lifts.

I knew we would have plenty of girls interested in signing up, but enlisting boys is always a challenge.

Without much thought, we offered it for free to boys who attended because, here's the thing: no boys = no class. At least, in a ballet partnering class—every Sugar Plum Fairy needs a Cavalier, right?

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Sean Boyd, courtesy of White

Julie Hammond White is an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she directs the dance education BFA. Here, the mother of two (Townsend, 10, and Dominic, 7) takes us through a typical week of juggling her personal and professional life. We caught up with White in October on the first day of work after her fall break. —Jill Randall


6:30–10 am Up and trying to rouse the boys. Throw in a load of laundry, pack lunches, set out uniforms. Drop kids off at school and head to the library. Finish planning advanced ballet.

10:30–11 Read 99 (?!) work e-mails. Taking a few days off is a bad idea…

11 am–12:30 pm Teach advanced ballet. I'm doing what I call "vitamin phrases": 2- to 3-minute phrases that focus on one aspect of ballet (this week, petit allégro).

12:40–1:55 Teach Methods in Dance Education. This is a course that all juniors, regardless of their major (performance/choreography or dance ed), must take to learn how to effectively teach dance in K–12, studios, higher education or community programs.

3:30–4 Grab a quick salad at restaurant across the street. Read letters from the promotion committee—passed the first stage of being recommended for full professor!

4–6 Grade DED 360 papers. These take a while. DED 360 is one of two writing- and speaking-intensive classes for the major. In their papers, students comment on eight areas of diversity as defined by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and find a media resource that addresses each to compare and contrast their views.

7–8 Grocery: bread, cantaloupe, Go-GURTS, apples, bananas, peanut butter, Nutella, pasta, cheese and oatmeal.

8–9 Laundry. Three loads. Also do a quick pickup of the house.

9 Boys home from day with Dad. They shower, brush teeth and set out their clothes for tomorrow. I sign homework and read them a story. Hugs and kisses, then bed by 10 pm.

10–10:30 More e-mails. Bed.

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