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State Street Ballet returns for its 10th ‘Nutcracker’ with Spokane Symphony

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 2, 2021

For the 10th year in a row, excepting last year’s canceled tour, State Street Ballet will join the Spokane Symphony for its annual production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

“I think ‘The Nutcracker’ has been embedded into a holiday tradition for so many families,” associate executive director and dancer Cecily MacDougall said. “There’s a sense of anticipation and excitement about it because people go to it for the similarity and the comfort.

“It represents home and joy and love and all of those aspects of the holidays that we want to carry with us throughout the year.”

Evening performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Matinee performances are 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Face masks are required. Audience members will also be required to provide either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance.

Audiences might recognize several of State Street Ballet’s principal dancers from previous years, including Marika Kobayashi (Sugarplum Fairy), Amara Galloway (Clara) and Noam Tsivkin (the Nutcracker).

Audience favorites like Sergei Domrachev (Herr Drosselmeyer) are also returning, as Harold Mendez (Harlequin Doll) and guest artist Aaron Smyth (the Snow King/Cavalier) join the company.

Performed annually by dancers all over the world, “The Nutcracker” is a first for many.

“ ‘The Nutcracker’ is the reason I started dancing,” Tsivkin said, remembering how at 3 years old, he turned to his mother in the audience and said, “I want to do that.”

Although she was a ballet teacher herself, Tsivkin’s mother never pressured him to pursue dance. Dance did all of the persuading on its own.

“It took a couple of years, but I made it,” he said. Over the years, Tsivkin has performed the role many times, but the different versions and variations in choreography keep it interesting.

“You always want to bring your best energy,” he said. “Just remember, this could be that special night for a little girl, a little boy’s first time seeing the ballet – and it could be your performance that inspires them.

“We do quite a lot of shows. But if you bring that energy every night, you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something. That’s my motivation.”

State Street Ballet will join forces with more than 70 young local dancers from Spokane Ballet Studio, Inland Northwest Ballet, Sandra’s Studio of Dance, Dance Center of Spokane, Academy of Dance, Ballet Arts Academy, Spokane Elite Dance Studio, Allegro Dance Studio in Sandpoint, Northern Dance Theatre in Colville and Expressions in Post Falls.

Meeting new students and reconnecting with students from past seasons brings another level of excitement, the dancers said.

“It’s really special … when we travel to different places that we have this base of people that are supporting us,” Galloway said.

“It’s really like our extended family,” MacDougall said, explaining how some of these students have gone on to join State Street Ballet’s professional track program.

“When we come up to Spokane and some of the other locations that we’ve been touring and visiting for years … we are seeing the students grow.”

From Santa Barbara, Calif., State Street Ballet dancers look forward to performing in Spokane during the annual tour.

“There’re so many Christmas-y elements that we don’t necessarily get as much of in Santa Barbara,” MacDougall said. “It’s so fun to walk through Riverfront and see all the Christmas trees at the Davenport.”

“The Fox Theater is one of the most beautiful theaters we get to dance in,” Tsivkin said.

And, they all agreed, getting to perform with the Spokane Symphony is a treat. Spokane Symphony resident conductor Morihiko Nakahara will conduct the five performances.

“I love dancing with the orchestra … the Spokane Symphony is amazing,” Kobayashi said. “We practice with CDs … but the process of getting everything together – getting to work with a live orchestra and dancing, it’s really beautiful.”

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