The Pacific Northwest Ballet: Reimagining the Nutcracker

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 1:54 PM PST

In 2014 the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) announced it would be retiring its beloved version of the Nutcracker, featuring sets and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak and choreography by Kent Stowell.  After 32-years, the Pacific Northwest Ballet decided it was time to take the show in a new direction.

That new direction debuted last Friday, when the Pacific Northwest Ballet premiered the reimagined Nutcracker with choreography by George Balanchine and costumes and sets designed by Ian Falconer, the artist behind the popular children’s book series Olivia. 

We turned to two of our alumni at the Pacific Northwest Ballet to get the inside scoop of what audiences can expect. Both Kristen Liang and Cassandra Lea are graduates of Seattle University’s Master of Fine Arts program and both work behind the scenes of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Cassandra is the Marketing Coordinator for PNB and Kristen is the Engagement Manager. They agreed that their favorite part of the productions is seeing everything come together from sketches on a page to opening night. 

“My favorite thing about this production has been watching the progress of all the costumes and sets as they are built. The artisans in the costume shop have done a spectacular job of bringing Ian Falconer’s illustrations to life and the costumes are gorgeous works of art in their own right. The sets are equally stunning and I’m so excited to see them up on stage.”  Kristen told us, going on to share that, “This production is truly a product of our community. PNB employed hundreds of local sculptors, artists and craftspeople. Even the short film that will begin this production was created by a local company.”

Despite the new look and feel, audiences needn’t worry. The show remains the same classic tale generations have come to love. “There are new costumes and new (to us) choreography, but the story is still very close to the previous version and people will still see many of their favorite characters like, Clara, Nutcracker, Snow and even the Peacock,” Cassandra said, assuring ballet fans they are in for a memorable experience.  “It’s going to be magical. The hall is beautifully decorated for the holidays. There are all new mini sets in the lobby to take your photo with, and a giant mouse and Mother Ginger sculpture. I also think that people are going to leave the performance in awe of the gorgeous new sets and costumes by Ian Falconer. I hope it will become their new holiday tradition.”

By the looks of Seattle Times arts writer, Moira Macdonald’s review of opening night, this show could very well cement itself in the hearts of Seattleites as a new holiday tradition. “It’ll be great fun to watch as this “Nutcracker” settles in for a long run; it is, like a stocking hung by the hearth, filled with treasures,” she writes.

You can experience the holiday magic for yourself at McCaw Hall with performances running until December 28th. Tickets are available online.  And when you go, remember Kristen’s favorite tip: pre-order your intermission refreshments and skip the lines.  

0042: PNB School students in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.
0606: PNB School students in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.
1121: Elizabeth Murphy and Jerome Tisserand in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.