This holiday season, Whidbey Island Dance Theatre is bringing “The Nutcracker” to a North Whidbey drive-in and living rooms across the world.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the theatre filmed this year’s Nutcracker. The film premieres 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Blue Fox Drive-in.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $40 per carload online at www.widtonline.org. Tickets purchased at the box office are $50 per carload.
Chyler White, this year’s Clara, said she is excited that the show will appear on a big screen.
White, a senior at South Whidbey High School, has danced in four Nutcrackers.
“Unless one of the dancers becomes a movie star, we probably won’t get to say that we’re on the drive-in screen again,” White said. “It’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”
People can also stream the film on the dance theatre’s website from Dec. 11 through Jan. 5. Since the performance is available virtually, The Nutcracker can be viewed by anyone. DVDs will also be available for purchase.
“People don’t even have to get dressed up to see this year’s performance,” WIDT Co-Artistic Director Charlene Brown said. “They can wear their pajamas, eat popcorn and sit in front of their TV.”
The dance theatre is a nonprofit pre-professional dance company founded on Whidbey Island in 1993. Typically, WIDT performs its version of the Nutcracker to live audiences at the South Whidbey High School auditorium.
This year’s show was filmed over two days at the Whidbey Children’s Theater auditorium. Some shots were taken in locations around Whidbey Island, including on the Mukilteo-to-Clinton ferry, and at Langley Marina and Fort Casey.
Some aspects of the filmed performance are different, but the story remains the same. Clara receives a magical Nutcracker from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. The Nutcracker Prince comes to life and battles the Rat Queen. After the Rat Queen’s defeat, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince journey through the beautiful Land of the Snow and the magical Enchanted Forest. Clara returns home and is awakened from what appears to be a dream.
In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, dancers are screened for the illness before each rehearsal. Their temperatures are checked and they are asked health questions. During rehearsals the dancers wear masks and, sometimes, gloves. Masks will be incorporated into the costumes during filming.
This year’s Nutcracker prince, Zane Vanderwood, is working on how to portray facial expressions and personality in a mask — an important part of a dance performance.
“I have to use a lot of my eyes and my eyebrows,” he said.
Vanderwood has played the prince for seven out of 10 years. He choreographs parts of the show with his mother, Susan Vanderwood, who has been involved in the show since 1993.
Susan Vanderwood said it’s been interesting to choreograph for a filmed show. Instead of creating large scenes with multiple dancers, she focused on what is seen by the camera.
The cast is also smaller to comply with room capacity guidelines, so she’s working with fewer performers.
Co-artistic Director Brittany Falso said the dance theatre moved forward with this year’s Nutcracker to provide a creative outlet for the company’s dancers. She said she believes the production provides some normalcy during a stressful time when the dancers are spending a majority of their days doing schoolwork on Zoom.
Brown said she thinks it’s imperative to support the arts, especially during the pandemic.
The arts industry was hit hard this year. The Nutcracker is WIDT’s biggest fundraiser, which is why community support is vital.
Falso said she appreciates the support the community has provided over the years.
“I hope the community will get on board and have a Nutcracker night at home,” Falso said. “We want to bring the holiday spirit into your living room this year, instead of you coming to the theater.”
- By Grace Swanson, Contributing writer