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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

    Central Oregon School of Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

    The well-loved ballet from backstage and audience perspectives

    From Backstage

    Sugar Plums danced through the air, a Snow King leaped around the stage and… a mouse fell asleep behind the curtain? Central Oregon School of Ballet’s (COSB) “The Nutcracker” is a yearly tradition for people in Bend, yanking Christmas out of the storage bins during the first week of Dec. and throwing the holiday season into motion, but as spectators celebrate from the audience, the dancers backstage work even harder than usual to be able to produce the show. 

    At COSB, students do more or less dancing depending on their skill and endurance levels. The students in the higher levels, who get cast in the more significant roles and require more practice, often feel overwhelmed during the weeks leading up to the show. As homework inclines to compensate for breaks and dancing hours nearly double to prepare for the shows, anxiety levels rise to meet a new high.

    The week before the shows tend to be the most stressful as dancers spend late nights sewing new pointe shoes and practicing choreography. Hours consumed at the studio dancing, rehearsing and training are counted precariously as the countdown to the show slowly ticks away.

    Emma Vandenbos, a dancer who was a Flower, Snowflake and Ribbon Candy soloist in “The Nutcracker,” relays her ballet schedule as seven and a half hours normally and more than twice that much during a “Nutcracker” week. 

    A “Nutcracker” week, as Vandenbos phrased it, would be referring to every week in Nov. except Thanksgiving. During these weeks, Intermediate 4 and Advanced, the two top classes in the school, could end up staying for up to three hours later than normal. Time for homework, which is being utilized to prepare for the show, no longer exists and dancers find themselves in a hard dilemma: Lose sleep and risk dancing badly at the show or catch up after “The Nutcracker” is over? 

    Although a lot of them struggled with anxiety surrounding what to do during this time, a very contradicting opinion stood out among the dancers interviewed: they were thrilled for the show. 

    The teachers at COSB, married team Joshua Deininger and Elizabeth Voiles, plus their professional teammate Shelby Blanchard, enter an excited state when preparing for and presenting the show. 

    “I love my teachers,” Vandenbos said. “They aren’t too harsh on kids, but if you need kind of a kick in the butt they’ll give it to you. They have the perfect amount of strictness and fun.”

    The instructors provide a welcoming community while still pushing the dancers to be their best selves. They do an outstanding job of teaching them technique, endurance and discipline while also continuing to grow a connected circle of dancers. 

    “It’s such a positive environment, and so lovely. It’s especially nice because normally the dance world’s so toxic but, it’s not at the studio,” Rowan Jacobs, a Summit freshman who was a Flower, Rat King Doll and Snowflake in the performances.

    Yearly traditions are a way to usher in “The Nutcracker” love, so the dancers always leap at any opportunity to do so. Examples of this support can be found in any dressing room: classmates swapping gifts laced with inside jokes, young mice squealing in delight as the older levels present them with gifts to welcome them to their first show. Warm-ups onstage with Christmas hits playing on the overhead speakers bring warmth and excitement to the dancers’ hearts while they hype each other up for the performances.

    These bursts of friendship boost energy levels in the studio and on stage, giving the show a stunning glow. Bringing people together through flowers and plastic snow, the dancer’s practice and passion burn brightly as each dancer adds a powerful touch to the show. 

    One thing is clear, whether you’re watching from behind the scenes or the audience: a lot of effort was made to put on such a dazzling performance. Without the dancers’ commitment to each other and the grueling training, there wouldn’t be such a beautiful yearly tradition to come back to. So, let’s give it up for the dancers, shall we?

    From the Audience

    As you file into the auditorium following crowds of people all anticipating “The Nutcracker,” you can’t help but get excited about what’s to come. It’s the start of another holiday season and you’re excited to see how the Central Oregon School of Ballet’s 37th annual “The Nutcracker” will kick it off. 

    Everyone in the audience is watching for a unique reason, whether it’s their 5-year-old dancer’s first time in the show or it’s your family’s 30th viewing of “The Nutcracker.” 

    “It’s a Bend tradition for most people,” said Rowan Jacobs, a company dancer for COSB. No matter your motivation, COSB does an excellent job bringing everyone together for a beautiful production. 

    Despite the age differences, all of the dancers performed an enjoyable show to jumpstart the 2023 Christmas season. Coordinating 5-year-olds to dance with professionals is no easy task, but at COSB the little dancers play cute, essential roles: Bonbons with pom poms on their feet, or teeny tiny mice running every which way on stage. The choreographers did a good job not allowing the chaos of children to take away from their presentation of this Christmas classic.

    While the little mice ran around, the company dancers were portraying an in-depth story, from the opening Christmas party to the final scene when Clara wakes up—and they never missed a beat.

    The ballet kicked off with Dosselmayer designing his Nutcracker then going to the Christmas party and giving it to Clara. In COSB’s production, Clara acts ecstatic upon receiving her new toy, and, like all the others, maintains her excellent acting throughout the show. This was truly a standout performance by someone so young. Clara led the whole first act and all of the other dancers, and she did a spectacular job. 

    At the end of the ballet, Clara wakes back up in bed and runs to find her nutcracker, once again a toy. She holds it up to the light as the curtains close. It was a beautiful presentation of a Christmas classic and everyone in the audience cheered endlessly. 

    “I’m not a dancer so I can’t say anything about that stuff, but [The Nutcracker] was amazing to watch and looked really good,” an audience member who watched the Sunday performance said.

    This is the case with a lot of audience members, they don’t notice the tiny little mistakes and they’re mostly watching the story of the “Nutcracker.” The performance featured a wide variety of costumes, snow and confetti on the stage, props for different acts and there was always a new dancer on stage keeping your attention. 

    In the end, the show was gorgeous. The well-crafted costumes and skilled dancers created an atmosphere that was impossible to turn away from. The ballerinas put in copious amounts of effort to create such a dynamic show, and it shone throughout the performance.

    “The Nutcracker” brings together the community with its yearly performance and puts Christmas into full swing. People come from all around Bend to watch the show. After loads of applause and bowing, it was time to follow the crowd back out of the school’s double doors. This time with a new appreciation for “The Nutcracker,” and all the hard work these dancers put in to create a stunning performance. 

    ‘Till next year!

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    About the Contributors
    Scarlett Tucker
    Scarlett Tucker, Staff Writer

    When staff writer Scarlett Tucker isn’t doing ballet, she can often be found reading a new book, drawing to her heart’s content, and procrastinating on any and all work. With nearly no free time to spare, you can find her up and moving all time, even late into the night. A steadfast Swiftie, she often spends hours (that she doesn’t have time to spend) clowning around with other Swifties and listening to Taylor Swift, mainly her alternative album Folklore. She’s extremely excited to learn how to enhance the few writing skills she has, and work with a team of people who also enjoy writing.

    Anya Haar
    Anya Haar, Staff Writer

    Anya, a first year staff writer, can be sighted through the doors of COGA, practicing gymnastics or telling little kids how to cartwheel. She makes it through her days by doordashing coffee, and constantly listening to Taylor Swift or boygenius. At home, she can be found surrounded by art projects she’s left unfinished, or trying, and failing, cool tricks she saw people do on the internet. 

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