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Count on Spokane Symphony and State Street Ballet to add up to holiday ‘Nutcracker’ fun

State Street Ballet performing The Nutcracker in 2014 at the Granada Theatre. (David Bazemore / David Bazemore Photo)
State Street Ballet performing The Nutcracker in 2014 at the Granada Theatre. (David Bazemore / David Bazemore Photo)
From staff reports

As much as “The Nutcracker” itself is a holiday tradition, so too is the yearly trip of members of Santa Barbara’s State Street Ballet to Spokane to perform the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet.

State Street Ballet will return to the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox to perform with the Spokane Symphony, conducted by Jorge Luis Uzcategui, and dozens of local dancers Thursday through Dec. 2.

Yes, the story may be the same, with a festive Christmas party, life-sized presents from the magical Uncle Drosselmeyer, the Mouse King and his troupe of mice and a nutcracker transformed into a handsome prince.

But that means you can count on the magic of “The Nutcracker” and the talent of the State Street Ballet dancers to whisk audiences away to the “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy” being there time and time again.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers behind bringing the Christmas classic to stage.

40: Years the Spokane Symphony has performing “The Nutcracker.” Their collaboration with State Street Ballet started eight years ago.

39: The number of years, including this one, that the symphony’s principal trumpet Larry Jess and principal percussionist Paul Raymond have performed “The Nutcracker.” Jess, who joined the symphony in 1969, didn’t miss a “Nutcracker” until last year. Raymond took 1981 off for graduate school.

35: Spokane Symphony musicians in the orchestra for “The Nutcracker.”

24: Number of movements included in Tchaikovsky’s score to “The Nutcracker.”

24: State Street dancers. That includes members of State Street’s professional company, three apprentices and one trainee. There are two different casts for the “The Nutcracker,” so dancers alternate parts, but everyone is in every show, said Leila Drake, associate director of State Street Ballet.

87: Student dancers performing in “The Nutcracker.” That’s 24 bon bons, 27 angels, 14 party scene dancers, 10 soldiers and 12 mice. Most parts have two casts and share the five perfomances. In September, 125 students auditioned for the roles. The students represent 11 area studios: Academy of Dance, Artistry in Motion, Ballet Arts Academy, Dance Center of Spokane, Elite Dance Studio, Expressions School of Performing Arts, Inland Northwest Ballet, Northern Ballet Performing Arts, Northern Dance Theatre, Sandra Olgard School of Dance and Spokane Ballet Studio.

8: Weeks of rehearsal. Dancers work with Emily Grizzell and Sara Donally once a week to get ready for the show, and rehearsals are mandatory. “Emily Grizzell and I rehearse them hard so they will be fully prepared to perform in this professional production. It’s hard work and a big commitment for the students and their parents,” Donally said.

3: Nutcrackers travel with State Street. “And they are constantly needing repair. We have a stockpile in Santa Barbara, but I’m always on the lookout for more,” said Nicole Thompson, wardrobe director of State Street Ballet.

302: Costumes. For the ballet company, there are 127 costumes plus headpieces, which travel on three clothing racks and four boxes. For the student dancers, it’s 175 costumes plus headpiece that arrive in eight giant boxes or suitcases. “All of the tunics and tutus have to be hand-sparkled, which means sewing one sequin on at a time. We never glue them on,” Thompson said.

75: Pairs of pointe shoes. “Our ballerinas go through about five pairs of pointe shoes each for this ‘Nutcracker’ tour, so you can safely say there are about 75 pairs of pointe shoes ready to go. Some of them only last for one performance, depending on the role danced and the brand of shoe,” Drake said.

20: Pounds of fake snow used during the run. Drake says to look for new choreography during the snow scene this year.

1: Medium-size cargo truck. While most of the ballet company travels by plane, the sets, costumes, fake snow and dancers’ luggage arrive in a truck – driven by the dancer who plays magical toymaker Drosselmeyer. “I guess that’s kind of appropriate, since he has to make sure everything gets there safely or there won’t be any ‘Nutcracker,’ ” Thompson said.

Sources: Spokane Symphony, State Street Ballet, and Spokane Ballet Studio

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