November 30, 1998
Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) heralds the holiday season with its 15th anniversary of the classic "Nutcracker." Featuring captivating choreography by PNB Artistic Director Kent Stowell and magical sets and costumes by the renowned children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, the ballet has become a favorite Northwest family tradition over the years.
Approximately 170 PNB School students from the Puget Sound area are chosen to perform with the company's professional dancers, and this year, eleven of them represent the Bothell and Woodinville communities: Amanda Lencer, Lauren Proteau, Carolyn Brateng, Amanda Heaton, Anne Kosugi, Alexis Rea, Kristen Towbin, Craig Hall, Alicia Hall, Lauren Hogan, and Jennifer Keaton. These aspiring young dancers are provided with the opportunity to gain invaluable experience and knowledge of the thrills and hard work involved in professional theatre life.
Each September, auditions are held at the school for over 150 children's roles in "Nutcracker." Once selected, the students spend two intense months of rehearsals, followed by forty performances in the month of December (most children dance in only twenty shows).
This is Carolyn Brateng's sixth year performing in "Nutcracker." Brateng, a ninth grader at Northshore Junior High, has been studying dance for over six years. For her, participating each year is a special experience. "Dancing in 'Nutcracker' is so much fun!" says Brateng. "I love everything about performing on stage. This year, my role is a Scrim Mouse, which involves more actual dancing than the previous roles I have had, so it's more challenging." Brateng takes dance six days a week, plays the flute, is a swimmer, and maintains a 4.0 average in school. She sees dance as being a part of her future, as a hobby or recreational pursuit, but not as a professional career.
Amanda Heaton, a third grader at Shelton View Elementary, is in her fifth year of dance at PNB's School, but this is her first experience performing in "Nutcracker." Her mother, Stephanie Heaton, recalls taking Amanda to see the ballet several years ago. "Amanda was so excited and thrilled through the whole show," says Heaton, "and at the end, she turned to me and said, 'I want to do that, Mom.' And now her wish has come true." Amanda will be performing the role of Small Servant, and is delighted about being on stage at the Opera House. "The best thing is dancing on the big stage," says Amanda. "It's so exciting!" Amanda's dream is to be a professional dancer, and according to her mother, dance comes naturally to her. "She comes home from her classes and plays ballet at home," explains Heaton. "Her enthusiasm for dance is amazing, and right now, it's not a difficult challenge for her. The challenge is for me with all the driving down into Seattle! It's definitely a big commitment for parents."
This is Lauren Hogan's first year with PNB's "Nutcracker," and she is thrilled about the opportunity to watch professional dancers up close. The Wilder Elementary sixth grader has been taking dance for six years and is a fan of PNB's "Nutcracker." She says, "I've seen the ballet and it's beautifully done. Claire's final solo is my favorite number." Lauren will be performing the role of Tall Servant, and currently dances over twelve hours a week with classes and rehearsals combined. In addition to dance, she also is a serious student of the violin.
For Evergreen Academy sixth grader Amanda Lencer, participating in "Nutcracker" for the first time means a new learning experience. She says, "I am learning different movements and all the things you need to know about being on stage." Amanda has been dancing since she was five years old. Dance represents many challenges to her, the main one being strength. "As you get more advanced, you need to have more strength to do the different positions and movements, so it gets harder," explains Amanda. She sees dance in her future, but as a side interest, because her professional goal is to become a veterinarian. Amanda will be performing as an Infantry member.
Around 285 hours are spent between rehearsing children and company members for "Nutcracker." When the lights go down in the Opera House, the magic begins for both the audience and the dancers. The rewards for all the hard work and perseverance will lie in the thrills of the experience and the simple joy of dance. PNB's "Nutcracker" opens December 3 at the Seattle Center Opera House. For ticket information call 206-292-ARTS.