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Review: Holiday Magic Springs to Life With Olympic Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'

New artistic directors bring fresh choreography to a traditional favorite. Performances are Saturday and Sunday.

Editor's note: Patch writer Rachel Gallaher studied dance at Olympic Ballet School and has previously performed in Olympic Ballet Theatre's version of The Nutcracker.

From the first notes of Tchaikovsky’s famous overture to Mara Vinson’s final, graceful bow, Olympic Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker brings the magic of the Christmas season to life.

The Edmonds company is now under the direction of Vinson and her husband, Oleg Gorboulev, but much of John and Helen Wilkins’ choreography remains in the production—a lasting testament to their years of hard work and dedication to Olympic Ballet. 

The production, which concludes its multicity holiday run this weekend at the , features the traditional Nutcracker story: young Clara (Grace Roodhouse) receives a nutcracker from her mysterious uncle Herr Drosselmeyer (Andy Dementre) during a Christmas Eve celebration.

After the guests have departed and the household is tucked into bed, Clara sneaks downstairs and falls asleep under the Christmas tree with her nutcracker. Soon, the drawing room transforms into a fantastical dream world, and Clara travels through a fierce battle into an enchanted forest of snow and on to the Land of Sweets.

Act I opens on a festive party scene at the Burgermeister home. As Clara’s parents direct the final touches of the drawing room, she and her brother scamper around in excitement.

Roodhouse makes a charming Clara, with strong dancing skills and endless expression.

All the performers in the party scene are wonderful actors, as well as dancers, and the costumes and set transformes the stage into a believable Victorian Christmas. The Columbine (Nicole Moshinsky) and Harlequin (Ezra Dickinson) dolls are jovial and precise, with Moshinsky executing beautifully complex footwork and strong pirouettes.

The epic battle between the rats and soldiers is less intense than in year’s past, but the Nutcracker (Ryan Sims) and Mouse King (Aeden Conefrey) exude strong energy in their high jumps and kicks, filling the stage with suspense until Clara rushes in to save her prince.

Post-battle, the stage is transformed into a whimsical snow-drifted forest, and Clara is no longer a young girl, but transformed into a beautiful young woman danced by the impeccable Vinson. Her duet with Le Yin was a highlight of the first act, and as she allowed herself to be led by Yin, it was as though the music was pulling her across the stage; every arabesque and port de bras was carried out to the fullest extent.

In Act II, Clara and the Prince arrive in the land of sweets and are welcomed with performances from a group of Spanish Chocolate (led by the graceful Alexandra Alderson), Arabian Coffee and the delightful Mother Ginger (Brian Rafferty), among others.

Vinson and Gorboulev choreographed Act II, and except for the deletion of the Sugar Plum Fairy (which was danced by Vinson as Clara), the choreography holds true to the story and beautifully matches the music.

All the young dancers showed great technical skill and those en pointe were, for the most part, strong on their feet and graceful with their limbs.

Vinson and Yin once again took the stage with a duet, as well as solo segments, stealing the second act with their breathtaking skills. Yin’s athleticism was on full display as he demonstrated both strength and balance with seemingly effortless high leaps and jumps.

Vinson’s perfect pirouettes and tight soutenus show that she is not only a knowledgeable choreographer but an impeccable performer as well. 

Whether you’re embracing an annual holiday tradition, or looking to start a new one, Olympic Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker is the perfect way to get into a festive, holiday mood.

Nutcracker will be performed Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the . Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors/students and $20 for children 10 and under. For more information, call Olympic Ballet Theatre at (425) 774-7570 or go to olympicballet.com.

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