A Very Humboldt Nutcracker
– Nicolosa Tessitore –
Every year North Coast Dance presents The Nutcracker at the beautiful Arkley Center for the Performing Arts. It’s become a Humboldt tradition for thousands of families.
Each year there are some minor changes, a new costume here and there, maybe a scene rearranged, but it’s still the Nutcracker everyone knows and loves.
This year brings exciting new additions, while still preserving that tradition. For about 10 years, NCD’s Nutcracker has included a sequence known as “Iowa” in which children from the Academy join NCD company members to perform a quaint farm scene. This year, thanks to a generous donation from Schmidbauer Lumber, “Iowa” will move much closer to home.
NCD is replacing Iowa with a Humboldt-style forest populated by a host of new characters. The students will still have a chance to perform as honeybees, and they’ll be joined by the traditional Bear Doll and Big Bad Wolf. Adding to the party will be a Fox, Raccoon, and Stag, plus a very special mystery guest who will be revealed for the first time on opening night.
The animal costumes are being created in NCD’s busy costume shop, including a new Big Bad Wolf. These masks (shown in the process of construction) are sculpted from foam, layered with faux fur, and then finished with custom made-silicone and resin parts such as the wolf’s eyes, teeth, and even tongue.
But there are more changes afoot than just the forest creatures. Magical Uncle Drosselmeyer has his own story this year, a charming romance with Lady Rose who appears in Clara’s dream as the Rose Queen. The dual role will be danced by NCD company member Iris Van Atta.
More subtle changes that a devotee of NCD’s nutcracker might notice are the many new costumes for the Act I party scene designed by Board President Gailey Browning and constructed with the assistance of Boardmember Connie Miller.
Rima Greer, Head of the Costume Department, tells us, “it’s so exciting to have Gailey designing these gorgeous 19th-century clothes. She’s a real master of creating that feeling of warmth, charm, and elegance.” Of building the forest animals, Rima says, “The masks, especially, are very labor intensive. And then we have to build both hand paws, foot paws, and the clothes the animals will wear. We wanted to give the sequence a real storybook feel, so we chose a palette of colors from Beatrix Potter’s classic Peter Rabbit paintings.”
In addition, each year NCD tries to revamp at least one of the more traditional scenes. Last year’s audience was treated to an exciting new Snow sequence. This year, it’s Waltz of the Flowers, choreographed by NCD’s principal ballet instructor Nancy Call, that gets a whole new look. Ikolo Griffin, the full production’s director/choreographer who will also be dancing the roles of Snow King and Cavalier, says, “We decided that the Land of the Sweets needed a brighter, tastier bouquet of flowers. We’re brightening them up with glossy shades of pink and apricot. It’s the perfect time to make the change, since we are expanding the role of Rose.”
Joining Griffin onstage are North Coast Dance company members Mark Hapgood and Craig Benson sharing the role of Drosselmeyer , Allie Lucchesi and Rebecca Harrison sharing the role of Snow Queen, Shelly Harris and Anthony Mankins dancing Arabian, and Guest Artist Paunika Jones as the Sugar Plum Fairy.