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A gathering of Nutcrackers 

by Sheri Boggs

You can almost hear the twinkling suspense of Tchaikovsky's ballet in the far wintry hinterlands of your mind, just as you can almost see the dancing sugarplum fairies, the genuflecting mushrooms, and even the rather alarming nutcrackers themselves the moment you first hear the music. The Nutcracker is a wildly imaginative dream, a musing on what it means to be a child at Christmas and, of course, a gorgeous expanse of music. It's also a favorite tradition in the Inland Northwest, and we have at least three productions and a number of performances to choose from.

The Alberta Ballet once again joins the Spokane Symphony this year for four performances, each featuring a core group of local dancers selected by audition from area dance schools. Choreographer Mikko Nissinen, formerly of the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, rendered the ballet in traditional Russian style last year, and this year, the ballet will again be performed in such fashion, with the addition of some impressive new sets. A sneak preview will be offered on Friday, Nov. 23, and again on Friday, Nov. 30, when ballerinas from The Nutcracker perform to the music of Tchaikovsky at River Park Square, which will be decorated with 8-foot tall Nutcrackers.

WSU's Beasley Coliseum will be transformed into a sugary fantasyland when the Eugene Ballet visits Pullman on Dec. 9. Moscow's Festival Dance and Performance Arts, a local nonprofit, community-oriented organization, is responsible for bringing not only the Eugene Ballet back to the Palouse year after year, but also a variety of top-notch performing acts, including the recent Caution: Men at Work gig. The Eugene Ballet's production of The Nutcracker incorporates not only sets and costumes redesigned by a former Disney artist, but also nearly 80 local dancers, who audition for the show in early fall.

In Sandpoint, it wouldn't be Christmas without the return of Ballet Idaho. Ballet Idaho is a closely related offshoot of the Eugene Ballet, and their rendition of this classic is designed to appeal to a child's sense of imagination. As in the Nutcrackers scheduled for Pullman and Spokane, the cast of Ballet Idaho's Nutcracker will be augmented by aspiring dancers from the Sandpoint area.

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