WIDT celebrates 30 years of “The Nutcracker”

— Created November 30, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Whidbey Island Dance Theatre is pleased to invite the community to share its 30th anniversary season of “The Nutcracker,” opening Friday, Dec. 9 and continuing through Dec. 18. All performances will take place at the South Whidbey High School auditorium in Langley.

And, even after three decades, those attending any of the performances this season will find the familiarity of tradition mixed with new twists and turns to keep the show fresh and exciting.

“We are so excited to be sharing the 30th year with our community back on the SWHS stage,” said Elliauna McLean, WIDT artistic director. “Every year we try to bring new elements of magic to our production but this year we think audiences will be pleasantly surprised. Our lead character, Clara, goes through some unexpected growth. We will also be unveiling a new scene.”

The pandemic obviously put a damper on the past couple of years of performances, but it’s back to business as usual this year, according to McLean, which allows more flexibility for this year’s show.

“We are definitely [looking forward to] being back at the SWHS stage,” she said. “This space allows us to include more dancers in our production as well as use all of our sets and props which have been built to fit this stage.  Being able to include all of this this year only helps to enhance the magic more.”

McLean, who has been the WIDT’s artistic director for two years, is no stranger to the Whidbey adaptation of “The Nutcracker.”  She grew up dancing at Island Dance and was asked to join WIDT at age 11. She danced with the pre-professional company until she graduated in 2013. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in dance and currently dances with Bellingham Repertory Dance.

It is community connections such as McLean’s that she believes adds to the popularity of this local holiday event.

“In addition to the performance quality given by WIDT dancers, I think our community dancers help to make this production a yearly family tradition on the island,” she said. “Seeing dancers from your own community, potentially even your own age, invites audiences to join in the magic.”

Sharing the holiday magic with everyone is important to those connected with Whidbey Island Dance Theatre and is what drives its “Send a Child to ‘The Nutcracker’” initiative.

“It is an essential part of our production and is completely community funded,” said McLean. “Each year we put out an ask to the community that allows people to donate ticket costs for children and families in need to be able to attend and share in our Nutcracker production.”

Over the past 30 years, WIDT has been able to provide this holiday experience to thousands of children on Whidbey Island. Those interested in participating in this annual drive can donate to the program online.

Preparation for this year’s production has not been without a few challenges – especially one provided recently by Mother Nature.

“Having the power out a few weeks ago was definitely a challenge to our rehearsal process,” McLean shared. “We missed a whole weekend of rehearsals, but our cast is so amazing and when we came back the following weekend, we were able to pick right back up where we left off.”

McLean said the cast of dancers has been working tirelessly since late in September to learn and perfect their roles and are now looking forward to presenting this holiday gift to the community, among other things.

“I think they are most looking forward to getting to perform in their costumes, since these are one of the final touches completed in the rehearsal process,” she said. “They complete that final layer of character-building for each of our roles.”

McLean said there is a long list of people to credit when it comes to putting on this beloved production.

“I’d just like to add a huge thank you to our choreographers, technical crew, board members, parents, and most importantly, dancers,” she said. “This production would not be possible without them and their hard work.”

While cast and crew are excited to bring “The Nutcracker” back to the South Whidbey High School stage, nothing can match the feeling putting on this production brings them, McLean said. 

“Knowing we are bringing joy to the community is so fulfilling,” she said. “And audiences won’t want to miss the new details being unveiled.”

Performances of the 30th annual production of WIDT’s “The Nutcracker” will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 9, 16 and 17 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18. Tickets and more information can be found online at widtonline.org.