The fluttering flutes and unyielding violins rise and fall as an army of pirouetting rats clash with leaping toy soldiers. It's a familiar scene when Clara flies to the aide of her Nutcracker—her favorite Christmas gift come to life—and throws her slipper at the Rat King. She and her prince then escape to the beautiful Land of Sweets, where they're met with dancing snowflakes, candy canes and the coveted Sugar Plum Fairy.
"The Nutcracker" is a holiday classic that over the last fifty years has been performed by thousands of dance companies—professional and amateur—during the holiday season.
While Central Oregon may be void of a professional dance company, two local ballet schools have taken on the challenging, nearly two-hour-long performance and will put on two very different incarnations this weekend.
The Central Oregon School of Ballet is celebrating its 28th year staging the holiday classic. Directors Zygmunt and Sarah Sawiel started the ballet school in 1981; at the time, they drove from teaching site to teaching site in their Chevy Camaro, lugging along a record player. Their troupe has since blossomed—and found a more stationary center: their yearly performance of "The Nutcracker" includes over a hundred students from ages 5 to adult that take regular class at their studio on Division Street in Bend. The Sawiels have created their own traditional variation choreography to Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky's timeless score.
On the other hand (foot?), the Redmond School of Dance will put on a much more Oregon-specific version of the ballet—using the same Tchaikovsky backdrop, but with a Juniper Berry Fairy rather than a Sugar Plum Fairy, a Rock Chuck King replacing the Rat King, and even a roller-skating romp through the snow.
The Nutcracker has become a holiday mainstay in the United States despite its varied success history, beginning with an unsuccessful debut of the two-act ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892.
Since the 1960s, however, one would be hard-pressed to find a company that hasn't performed the ballet. For many, "The Nutcracker" generates a large portion of their annual ticket sale revenue, The New York City Ballet reports about 40 percent for its company. The success and availability even spurred Alastair Macaulay, dance critic for The New York Times, to write The Nutcracker Chronicles, reviews of dozens of performances across the country. Central Oregon's very own Nutcracker Chronicles begin Saturday at 3 pm.
Central Oregon School of Ballet performance
Saturday, Dec. 7, 3 pm and 7 pm.
Sunday, Dec. 8, 3 pm
Bend High School, 230 NE 6th St. $18-22.
Redmond School of Dance performance
Saturday, Dec. 7, 7 pm.
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2 pm.
Ridgeview High School Theatre, 4555 SW Elkhorn Ave. $10-12.