Jeff Dunnicliff Photo
                                Duncan Barlow and Mia Giovanna Kuzma will soar in principle roles in Vashon Center for Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
                                Duncan Barlow and Mia Giovanna Kuzma will soar in principle roles in Vashon Center for Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker.” (Jeff Dunnicliff Photo)

Jeff Dunnicliff Photo Duncan Barlow and Mia Giovanna Kuzma will soar in principle roles in Vashon Center for Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Duncan Barlow and Mia Giovanna Kuzma will soar in principle roles in Vashon Center for Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker.” (Jeff Dunnicliff Photo)

Curtain’s going up on bigger than ever Nutcracker

For Vadne White, it’s that time of year — when late at night, her husband might jolt her from a reverie of deep, silent contemplation with the observation, “You’re nutcrackering again.”

If White is lost in thoughts about Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music, or making a mental inventory of props and costumes needed for the ballet, or puzzling over a new series of steps for one of its principal dancers, it’s not surprising. As the director of Vashon Center for Dance since 2017, she’s now responsible for the annual presentation of Vashon’s “Nutcracker,” which this year will boast performances by more than 100 local dance students and adults.

Asked to estimate the number of hours per week it takes to helm the production, White laughs, and recounts her husband’s admonition about “nutcrackering.”

“I’m always thinking about it,” she said.

The lights will go up on this year’s production at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14, and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 16, in the Katherine L. White Hall at Vashon Center for the Arts.

As always, the ballet will bring to life the much-loved story of a little girl’s dream of swirling snowflakes, dancing flowers and characters from a sensational kingdom of sweets.

But the upcoming production, White said, will also include a few new twists and surprises, including the casting of four different ballerinas in the part of Clara, and more adults than ever before in the cast.

Of the 108 cast members, 18 are adults — a number that reflects White’s decision to have an official casting call for grownups for this year’s “Nutcracker.”

“I feel like every year somebody says, ‘that looks like so much fun,’” she said. “People just want to be involved and get to do something with their kids.”

The production will indeed be a family affair for Mia Giovanna Kuzma and her father, Jonathan Kuzma. Mia, a graceful teenage dancer who has studied at the Center for Dance for many years, has been cast as this year’s Sugar Plum Fairy. Jonathan will dance the role of Drosselmeyer, a mysterious uncle who shows up in the first act with a magical gift that kick-starts the plot of the ballet.

Another lead dancer, Freja Holmes, who will play Clara at the Friday performance, will be joined onstage by her brother, Gus Holmes, playing the part of the Nutcracker Prince, as well as her parents, who are in the opening party scene.

“The grandparents are flying in from the East Coast to see all of them onstage,” White said.

Other young dancers playing Clara in subsequent performances are Ella Strong (Saturday matinee); Sadie Choo (Saturday evening performance); and Sophie Hancock (Sunday matinee).

White said it created extra work for her to have four Claras, but that each of the girls deserved to dance the part.

“I want to spread the opportunity out as much as I can,” she said.

Two other dancers who have long taken classes at the dance center, Roslyn Bellscheidt and Penelope Boyes, will share the role of the Dew Drop Fairy, and be partnered by Duncan Barlow.

Barlow, in the lead role of Cavalier, is an accomplished male dancer who began dancing at the Center for Dance as an 8-year-old. In recent years, White said, Barlow has become a serious student of dance, participating in summer intensives with the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and also taking classes at the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

“He’s got talent, and we’ve got to push him out there,” White said.

The set for Vashon’s “Nutcracker,” now being used for the third consecutive year, was designed by local architect Robert Wright, whose daughter Juliana Wright is a graduate of the dance center. Now in college at the University of Utah, she is a dance major.

White said she expects islanders to turn out in droves for the performances, and especially encouraged people to buy tickets early for the Sunday matinee, which typically sells out. She also encouraged parents of young children to bring them to the Saturday matinee, where there will be lobby activities during the intermission, including a photo booth for children to pose with cast members.

The ballet, she said, will be a true community celebration, filled with exuberant young dancers and familiar older faces as well.

“It’s fun to sit in the audience and say, ‘That’s my neighbor, that’s my bus driver,’” White said. “It’s really great for everybody.”

Advance tickets for the show, available at vashoncenterforthearts, are $16 general, $14 seniors and $12 for VCA members and students. All tickets are $20 at the door.

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