Temperatures are dropping, snowflakes are falling, and people are smiling. Hood River is gearing up for the holiday season, and so are the dancers at the Columbia Gorge Dance Academy. Every year, the Columbia Gorge Dance Academy (CGDA) puts on a wonderful production of the Nutcracker at the Hood River Middle School. Community members line up with a can of food or donation for the local F.I.S.H. food bank, and fill the auditorium at all three performances annually, proving that it is a loved and renowned part of Hood River’s holiday season. About 300 dancers participate in the show, and since October, CGDA ballerinas have been auditioning and rehearsing to make this year’s show as fabulous as always.
The Nutcracker is a world-famous ballet about a young girl named Clara on Christmas Eve. The show opens with the party scene. Various dances are performed by the guests of a Christmas party hosted by Clara’s family, along with a performance by the mechanical doll and bear brought by Clara’s uncle, Drosselmeyer. Clara is enchanted by the doll, and begs her mother to give it to her. When her mother refuses, Clara is distraught. But shortly after, Drosselmeyer presents her with a wooden nutcracker to brighten her spirits. After the party, Clara falls asleep with her beloved Nutcracker at her side. She dreams that her Nutcracker comes to life, and takes her on a magical journey through a land ruled by a beautiful sugarplum fairy. Clara sits on a regal throne while candies, flowers, angels, and exotic dancers from all over the world perform for her throughout her dreamland.
This year’s productions will be on December 13th and 14th, but auditions began back in October. Advanced ballerinas danced one at a time in front of a panel of six judges, and results were posted the following week. Ever since, the local dance studio has been hustling and bustling to prepare for the approaching show. “I love Nutcracker season.” says senior ballerina, Taylor Simonds, “I’ve been walking into that same cold theatre every December since I was three, and it just gets better every year.” When asked about the stress that comes along with the show, Simonds adds “Well yeah, of course it’s stressful. You’re dancing in front of your entire town! But it’s totally worth it. Hearing the audience clap for you never gets old.”
The ballerinas participating in CGDA’s Nutcracker range from three year old baby mice, to 18 year old sugarplum fairies and snow queens. Ballet directors Nancy Clement and Theresa Mason work together to teach 40 classes per week in order to prepare each ballerina for the show. Up until the week prior to the production, each rehearsal is done in the CGDA studio. Dancers don’t set foot on stage until the Friday evening before the opening matinee on the following day. CGDA dancers refer to the week prior to the show as “nutty week” because it is jam packed with rehearsals and costume fittings. “Nutty week is crazy!” exclaims ballerina, Hannah Simons, “There are tons of people in our studio and it gets really crowded, but everyone is so excited for the show! It’s a lot of fun.”
Ballerinas rehearse each of the five scenes (the party scene, the fight scene, the snow scene, the land of the sugarplum fairy, and the waltz of the flowers) in the studio before dancing them onstage at their dress rehearsals. They arrive at the auditorium on the night prior to the opening show, and dance two dress rehearsals. They return to the studio the following morning for a warm-up barre class. Then, the ballerinas go to the auditorium and dance a dress rehearsal for Sunday’s show, followed by two Saturday performances. Needless to say, the dancers are exhausted on Saturday night when they attend the annual Nutcracker cast-party. Sunday morning, they have another warm-up class at the studio. They then go on to dance the final performance of the Nutcracker on Sunday at 2:00.
The ballerinas in your community have been rehearsing non-stop since October to make this year’s Nutcracker a fabulous show. Please support your local dance studio and food bank by attending CGDA’s annual Nutcracker performance on December 13th at 1:00, December 13th at 4:00, or December 14th at 2:00 at the Hood River Middle School; it will be well worth your time.
Written by, Anneke Virk
Categories: HRV Arts