Not all of the scenes in “The Nutcracker” feature ballerinas gliding across the stage in frilly tutus. Scenes with dancers in Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russian-themed costumes, with corresponding choreography and ethnically rich music by Tchaikovsky, spice up the classic ballet.
Several dancers in the Longview production of “The Nutcracker,” which will be presented Friday and Saturday, said they enjoy the variety of choreography they get to do, as well as the bright flowing costumes they wear.
This is the fifth time Kristy Larson of Evergreen Dance Center has presented “The Nutcracker” in Longview in years when there’s no professional touring production. Larson said she hasn’t changed the choreography much this time. “The dances are mostly the same but we styled them to the people” in the cast, she said. “We added some different lifts.”
Abigail Heston likes her part in the Arabian coffee scene because “it’s very different from all the other roles in ‘Nutcracker.’ It’s the only female who’s not wearing a tutu or a skirt,” Heston said -- she’s garbed in bright red and gold pants and top.
The music for the Arabian scene is distinctive, too. “It’s really mysterious and slow,” said Heston, 15, who is home-schooled.
The music invites slinky movements. Heston enters the scene carried on a litter by Jonathan Jones and Andrew Larson, one of her legs thrust up above her. She bends over backwards at one point, then lies on her front and brings her foot behind her head in another part.
The fact that the Arabian dance is sedate doesn’t make it easier. “The timing is what we’re having trouble with the most because it’s so slow,” Heston said.
One of her porters, Andrew Larson, said ballet is usually fast-paced. “For this dance, you have to go super-slow, so sometimes you feel like you’re not doing anything for 10 seconds,” said Larson, 17, who attends Kelso High School.
With all the attention focused on fewer moves, Heston said, “it’s hard to cover up mistakes, too.”
The Arabian coffee dance is part of a sequence that comes in the second act of “The Nutcracker,” which is about a German girl, Clara, who receives a nutcracker toy during a lavish Christmas Eve party. After her little brother breaks the toy, Clara dozes off, only to awaken and witness the Nutcracker prince battling an evil army of mice (just the right role for younger kids in costumes with tails). The prince takes Clara to the Land of the Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy rewards her with a celebration of dances from different nationalities.
The sweets represented were exotic in the 1890s, when the music was written.
“Chinese tea is something that was kind of special,” said Linneaea Morris, who is one of four Chinese dancers. Morris, 13, who is home-schooled, and the other Chinese dancers wear yellow, Chinese-style blouses with bright orange pants, hats and, of course, fans that they hold in front of them for much of the dance.
Another Chinese dancer, Kaylor Auger, 15, who attends R.A. Long High School, said she likes the fact that the scene relates to Chinese culture. “It’s precise, and I like precise things,” Auger said. “It’s a fun dance overall.”
Both Morris and Auger actually prefer appearing in the scene that represents another kind of treat, marzipan. “ When I was a little dancer, I took a liking to it,” Auger said. “It’s just three of us and I like the music,” Morris said.
Larson is the third dancer in the Marzipan scene. “I get to dance with two girls at the same time,” he remarked. “It’s a little different.”
“The Nutcracker” provides a multicultural experience for the dancers. Heston, the principal Arabian dancer, also is in the Chinese scene.
Averie Freund, 15, who attends Kelso High School, is in both the Chinese and Spanish scenes. In the Spanish sequence, “there are a lot of facial expressions,” she said. Freund has several other roles, too, but Spanish chocolate in a red-and-black costume is her favorite. “It’s more intricate,” she said. “I guess there’s more to do.”
The production’s Russian candy cane dance calls for quick, athletic kicks by male dancers. “The speed of the jumping and the extravagant motions you don’t see in classical ballet,” said Yann Kaufman, one of the Russians. Kaufman, 15, who attends R.A. Long, said he trains for the jumping in ballet classes, however. “Certain exercises we do give you the ability to lift your legs like that,” he said.
Through all the scenes with tiptoeing Chinese, twisting Arabians and kicking Russians, there’s Clara, the dreaming girl who beholds all the dancing treats. That role is played by Madison Hamilton, 11, who goes to Mount Solo Middle School. She likes her role even if it doesn’t have as much dancing as some of the others. “It’s amazing to be Clara because she has a great personality,” Hamilton said.