You already know how this story goes.There’s a sense of anticipation when the lights in the theater go down. A hush comes over the audience and the orchestra tunes their instruments. The conductor walks out and we hear the first few notes of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score. The curtain goes up and the magic begins…

Music Director & Principal Conductor Emil de Cou (photo courtesy of National Symphony Orchestra); Company dancers; corps de ballet dancer Leah Merchant.

Part of the magic of Nutcracker is that, year after year, the same things happen onstage, and yet our delight grows with each performance. Here are 30 magical Stowell & Sendak Nutcracker moments (some large and some small) we can’t wait to share with you each holiday season:

1. The teeny tiny boy and girl who dance with the Grandparents during Party Scene

2. The bust of Mozart that watches over the Stahlbaum’s holiday party

3. The mice that are part of Maurice Sendak’s sets (look for the chubby one on the chandelier!)

4. The children in the audience who can’t help but dance in their seats

5. Party Girls’ perfect ringlets and the rambunctious Party Boys…onstage and off

PNB School students backstage (left & right); principal dancer Seth Orza with PNB School students (center)

6. The dancing ballerina and sword dolls–precursors to characters who appear later

7. When the Grandfather Clock grows and dances

8. When the Christmas tree finishes growing and everyone claps

9. Mother Mouse and her two adorable Baby Mice

10. When the lead fighting mouse, Attila, rubs his tummy

Corps de ballet dancers Kyle Davis (left) and Amanda Clark (right); original set design by children’s book author/illustrator Maurice Sendak (center)

11. When the cannons go off and the whole audience jumps

12. The Mouse King’s tail that wraps around to the other side of the stage.

13. The beauty and romance of the Snow Scene pas de deux

14. When the lead snowflake that comes onstage by herself and does those great arms

15. Clara and the Prince’s fantastical golden ship

Principal dancers Maria Chapman and Seth Orza (top left) and corps de ballet dancer Amanda Clark (bottom right); original artwork by Maurice Sendak

16. When Clara and the Prince are sailing and dolphins pop up from the waves

17. Maurice Sendak’s “Wild Thing” that appears during Clara and the Prince’s sea voyage

18. Bobbing lanterns leading the way to Pasha’s kingdom (where there are awesome floor pillows!)
19. Watching Clara and the Prince tell how they defeated the Mouse King
20. When the Small Servants do “jazz hands” at the beginning of Act 2

(left to right) corps de ballet dancer Angelica Generosa, principal dancer Maria Chapman with PNB School students, and principal dancer Lesley Rausch as Peacock

21. All the robes and hats that the mice wear in Pasha’s Kingdom

22. The Peacock who comes out of her golden cage and dances, swishing her long tail

23. The surprise ending to the dance of the Chinese Tiger (after he gets tangled in the ribbons) 

24. When the masked man in the Commedia pas de trois does his tricks

25. The wild applause from the kids in the audience for the little Toy Theater dancers

PNB School students (left and right); principal dancer James Moore in the Commedia pas de trois (center)

26. The dream-like pink costumes worn for Waltz of the Flowers

27. Flora’s amazing turns and leaps during Waltz of the Flowers

27. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince’s final grand pas de deux (with overhead lifts!)

28. The grand finale, when the whole cast has a big dance party on stage
30. Watching the children dance through the doors on their way out of McCaw Hall, glowing with delight

(left to right) principal dancers Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Porretta, soloist Lindsi Dec, and PNB School students

Blog by Judith May Austin; all photos © Angela Sterling unless otherwise noted.