By Steve Guntli
A regional ballet troupe is kicking off their 2015/16 season in Blaine.
Northwest Ballet Theater (NBT), based out of Bellingham and Lynden, will perform Tchaikovsky’s perennial holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker,” in Blaine school district’s performing arts center on December 5 and 6. The performances will mark the opening of troupe’s 17th season, and the first time the theater has performed in Blaine.
“We’re really looking forward to having the show in Blaine this year,” said artistic director John Bishop. “The theater there is huge. We’re really excited.”
Bishop said the performance will be a traditional take on the story, using much of the original choreography Russian dancers used at the show’s 1892 premiere in St. Petersburg.
“We changed a few parts, just so we could give some of the kids a little more to do,” Bishop said. “But for the most part we’ve kept it very close to the original style.”
Bishop is overseeing a cast of around 80 people, ranging from 3-year-olds to adults. Since there are so many talented children in the cast, Bishop was happy to increase their stage time.
“We really wanted to give some young people a chance to do some real dancing, not just standing around on stage,” he said. “We’ve got a really talented cast, and it’s great for families to come see their kids onstage.”
Hailey Forsberg will play Clara, a young girl who is taken to a magical land by the Nutcracker, the prince of a fairy kingdom. Forsberg, 19, has been dancing ballet since she was 3 years old, and has been with NBT for eight years.
“It feels awesome,” to be playing the lead, she said. “I’ve been working so hard for so many years that it is very rewarding to be given the lead. Every ‘Nutcracker,’ I watched the principal dancers from the wings and was in awe. I thought they were amazing, and it is a little unreal to be the principal myself now.”
Henry Winslow and Evan Barnett will share duties playing the Nutcracker in different performances. Forsberg will dance in all seven performances.
“We actually have six young men in the cast this year,” Bishop said. “And that’s a really nice change. Usually we have to go outside the community to theater groups in Seattle or beyond to fill male roles, but this year we’re all local.”
After the Blaine performances, NBT will put on two shows at Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham December 11–13, and another two at Mount Vernon’s McIntyre Hall December 19 and 20.
“The Nutcracker” is just the beginning. On Saturday, March 19, NBT will perform in the Northwest Dance Festival, a one night only event that will highlight the best dance styles of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The season will close with a staging of “Alice in Wonderland” from May 2 to June 11. Bishop is choreographing this new rendition of the classic Lewis Carroll story, with music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
Tickets for the Blaine performances are available online at blainenutcracker.eventbrite.com, or by calling 360/714-1246. Preorder tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and military.