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December 8, 1997

Features

PNB's 'Nutcracker' showcases talent of local dancers

nutcrack

photo courtesy of PNB

by Deborah Stone
   Pacific Northwest ballet's "Nutcracker," in its 14th season, opens December 4th at the Seattle Center Opera House. Choreographed by PNB's Artistic Director Kent Stowell, this timeless classic is a holiday tradition for many families in the area. With sets and costumes designed by noted children's author Maurice Sendak, this production is a treat for all ages. Each year, children from the Pacific Northwest Ballet School (PNBS) audition and are chosen for over one hundred roles in the show. For most, it is their initiation into the world of professional dancing and an opportunity to be recognized for their talent and commitment.
  
   Four children from Woodinville are among the performers in this year's "Nutcracker." Alicia and Craig Hall, sister and brother, will be dancing the roles of "small servant" and "party boy" respectively. This is their first "Nutcracker" experience. Both children attend Woodmoor Elementary where Craig is in the third grade and Alicia, the fourth. Their ballet training began four years ago. First Alicia started taking classes and then several months later, Craig followed. Their mother, Lisa Kraft, says, "When Alicia began dancing, Craig came along to sit in the waiting room. He got tired of that after awhile and decided it would be more fun to try the class." Now the pair take two classes a week and are completely enamored with ballet. "They live for it and get so much joy out of it," says Kraft. "They glow and almost levitate after coming out of class." Both children include becoming a professional dancer as one of their career choices and look up to PNB's dancers as their role models. Alicia says, "My favorite dancer is Patricia Barker. She is so beautiful dancing on the stage." Craig responds, "I like Seth Belliston. He is a really good jumper and fun to watch." The Hall children will be in twenty performances of the "Nutcracker."
  
   Third grader Kristen Towbin is also a student at Woodmoor and a first time dancer in the "Nutcracker." She will be dancing the role of "small servant" and doing twenty performances during the show's month-long run. Kristen began her training when she was three and now takes two classes a week. Her mother, Katherine Towbin, says of her daughter, "She loves ballet and is extremely committed to it. She seems to really enjoy the discipline of it and is able to stay focused." Kristen aspires to become a dancer when she grows up and has already decided on the path she'll take to reach her goal. She says, "I want to go to Cornish and then New York, but I know I have to work hard and practice a lot. I need to do this so I can look graceful, like Audrey Hepburn."
  
   The fourth local performer is Jennifer Keaton, a seventh grader at Leota Jr. High. This is Jennifer's first "Nutcracker" experience and she will be dancing the role of "tall servant." In her eighth year of ballet, she now takes six classes a week with PNBS. Jennifer views ballet as fun and challenging, as well as an opportunity to be expressive. Like the others interviewed for this article, she also wishes to pursue dance professionally. "I want to make a career of it and also become a choreographer," says Jennifer. "When I hear music, I think of moves and make up my own dances." Hard work and sacrifices are a part of any dancer's life and Jennifer seems very aware of these factors. She responds, "I'm willing to make the sacrifices because it's so important to me. I'm making them now because to dance six times a week means I can't do any other sports after school or participate in many after-school activities or even see my friends as much as I like." Jennifer's mother, Celeste Keaton, is very supportive of her daughter's endeavors and comments, "She has lots of self-discipline and is very focused. She has known since she was three, when she first saw "Nutcracker," that she wanted to dance and be on stage. This is a great opportunity for her."
  
   Only time will tell what the future holds for these four young dancers. But for now, dancing in the "Nutcracker" is a dream come true. "Nutcracker" runs through December 30th. Call 292-ARTS for ticket information.