Our youngest Nutcracker performers, all students at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, are some of the most dedicated kids in the ballet world. Each year, from late September to late December, they devote themselves to telling this timeless holiday story. From our littlest golden angels, to Clara’s bed rollers, each and every student is an integral part of creating the magic that is George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. PNB always prioritizes the safety of our youngest cast members and this year is no exception – although it did require a little extra brainstorming.

Every step of The Nutcracker process has been altered in some way this year, beginning with the cast size. This production normally features 140 students, but some roles have been double cast this year to allow for less people, and more social distancing, in the studios and backstage. 103 students are involved in our 2021 production, about 70% of our normal student cast size.

The once-crowded studio rehearsals have changed as well. Everyone in the building is masked at all times, and our student dancers are rehearsing in two separate casts. These two casts allow us to keep the number of people each student interacts with daily to a minimum. Some of the classic choreography, especially in crowded moments like the Party Scene, has been adjusted to keep performers from being too close to one another.

Our normal onstage routine has changed as well. The PNB costume chop has been working on specially-made masks for the child performers to wear while they dance. These masks match, and even sometimes enhance, the costumes they accompany. See if you can keep track of all the different masks you see on stage!

All in all, our goal is to make The Nutcracker a safe experience for our audiences, artists, crew, and staff. We appreciate the flexibility of all our PNB School students, families, and staff to help us accomplish that goal.

Photos: PNB School students rehearsing for The Nutcracker, photos © Lindsay Thomas.