Ballet transforms into a wonderland

Stefani Turner, center, dances as Clara in Studio West Dance Academy's 2009 production of "The Nutcracker."
Stefani Turner, center, dances as Clara in Studio West Dance Academy's 2009 production of "The Nutcracker." COURTESY OF STUDIO WEST DANCE ACADEMY

This weekend, the forecast is for snow. "It's a blizzard," said Mary Cecelia Zechmann.

There’s no need to panic about driving conditions, though: Zechmann is not a meteorologist, but the co-director of Studio West Dance Academy, and the snow will be falling on stage at the Minnaert Center for the Arts during the dance school’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

“We have a lot more snow in our scene,” said choreographer and co- director Stephanie Wood. “It’s a winter wonderland.”

The snow — the same kind of fake snow used by Pacific Northwest Ballet for its “Nutcracker” — is actually made from plastic. “It adds such an amazing, magical element to the ballet,” Wood said.

This will be Studio West’s second “Nutcracker,” and it’s already about 90 percent sold out. A fifth performance has been added.

Among the production’s 150 dancers will be guest artists Avi Gold and Carrie Wanamaker-Gold of the Minnesota Ballet. The Golds danced in the production last year, too.

“They asked to return,” Wood said. “They told us ours was one of the most professional student productions they’ve been in.”

The production also features professional sets and costumes used for years by the Nashville Ballet.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful set,” Zechmann said. “It’s a cohesive set that was built all at one time, so the style of the set matches.”

“Last year, we had a lot of people say they travel to Seattle to see ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” Wood said. “We are not Pacific Northwest Ballet, but we had a lot of people say that they were impressed and liked that they could stay local and see a production of a similar magnitude.”

And snow is not the only new element this year.

“There’s more humor in different places,” Wood said. “I feel like ‘The Nutcracker’ needs to stay lighthearted and comical.

“Dads and brothers are being dragged to the show,” she added, “and they need to stay entertained as much as little girls who are excited about pointe shoes.”

Next up for the company: a May production of “Peter Pan.”

“We’re excited,” Zechmann said. “We’re going to have an annual storybook ballet series at the Washington Center.”