As Clement Moore wrote, this is the time of year for visions of sugarplums to dance in our heads. It’s also time for “The Nutcracker” to be danced before our eyes.
Ballet Northwest’s production of the holiday favorite opens Friday (Dec. 11), and Studio West’s begins Dec. 17.
For those who dance in the local productions, though, visions of sugar plum fairies and snow queens aren’t reserved for holiday time.
“We audition for ‘Nutcracker’ back in August,” said Anthony Gamroth, dancing the role of the Nutcracker Prince in the Ballet Northwest production. “It dominates a lot of time.
“We don’t get to go to the Christmas parades or festivals or things like that, because we’re working.”
“There’s really no space for anything else in my life,” said Sarah Sawatsky, 16, dancing Dew Drop and the Snow Queen in the Studio West Dance Theatre production. “I try to get my family in there, too, but it’s really just dance and school.
“I’m here every day,” she said of Studio West. “If there were a dorm, I would sleep here.”
Of course, the dancers say the effort is more than worth the time.
“I love it,” Gamroth said. “Having done it, I can’t imagine spending a holiday without ‘Nutcracker.’ ”
At 30, Gamroth is quite a bit older than most cast members in either show. He’s also atypical in that most dancers are still female, though that is changing. This year, neither local company felt the need to bring in a guest dancer to handle the role of the Nutcracker Prince.
In many ways, though, Gamroth’s story is very much like those of the other dancers who’ll bring to life the story of a little girl who gets a nutcracker for Christmas and finds herself transported to a magical world.
Those who appear on stage as princes, fairies, soldiers and mice have a passion for the “Nutcracker,” quirky storyline and all. As do audiences. The ballet is a holiday mainstay for ballet companies both amateur and professional and a tradition for many families.
Studio West has been doing a production since 2009, while Ballet Northwest has been doing a version since 1985.
“I love the magic of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” Sawatsky said. “I saw it when I was very little, and I instantly fell in love with it.”
It is where most American ballet dancers make their stage debuts.
“It has become the training ground for all potential dancers, since there are male and female roles for every age,” David Rutherford said in a story on Colorado Public Radio.
Many of those dancing in the Olympia productions — each featuring more than 200 dancers — long to join the ranks of the professionals.
Sawatsky, who is in the Running Start program at South Puget Sound Community College, hopes to spend next year studying ballet full time at a pre-professional school in Europe or Canada.
She, like other dancers in both productions, has already traveled to a summer training program to further her dance education, on top of dancing and training several hours a day during much of the school year.
For Gamroth, a personal trainer who began dancing six years ago, the dream of being a professional recently came true. In the fall, he began dancing with DASSdance, a small contemporary dance company in Seattle. His first performance with the company was earlier this month.
“My checks have the DASSdance letterhead on them,” he said. “I took a picture of me with the first one. Look at me: I’m a professional.”
‘The Nutcracker’ in Olympia
Featured dancers: Dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy are Anna Thornton, 17, a junior at Olympia High School, and Monica Tsien, 15, a sophomore at Olympia. Dancing the Nutcracker Prince are Anthony Gamroth, who dances professionally with DASSdance in Seattle, and Russell Ridgeway, 18, a Running Start student at South Puget Sound Community College.
Choreographers: Ken and Josie Johnson.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 18-19, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 19-20.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
Tickets: $23-$33, $19-$29 for students and seniors, $14-$19 for youth 12 and younger.
STUDIO WEST DANCE THEATRE
Featured dancers: Dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy are Katharine Cowan, 16, a junior at Olympia High School, and Carol Davis, 17, a senior at Olympia. Dancing the Nutcracker Prince are Owen Brodie, 15, a freshman at Olympia, and Cole McMason, 14, a freshman at Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma.
Choreographers: Stephanie Wood-Ennett, Marianna Ramsour, and Erin Pattillo.
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17, 7 p.m. Dec. 18, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 19, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 20.
Where: Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia.
Tickets: $22.50-$25, $18.50-$20.50 for students and seniors, $16-$18 for youth under 14. The production is already close to selling out, said Stephanie Wood-Ennett, Studio West’s co-director.