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Olympic Performance Group brings Nutcracker to Bainbridge
Like many girls her age, Oksana is busy these days practicing her gran plie for the Nutcracker Ballet. You may have heard of it. The Nutcracker is arguably the holiday classic, but islanders have had to travel off the rock to see a production — until this year.
Sara Cramer is president of the nonprofit Olympic Performance Group, and has staged the fanciful ballet in Poulsbo for five years, mainly because BPA is booked solid during the holidays.
This year, she found a slice of heaven in the few days leading up to Christmas.
Nuts and bolts
Even for a nonprofit, a production has to make financial sense. Cramer got out her calculator, figuring in give shows in three days might pay for the venue. She did five shows at the Kitsap lallalallalal, but that venue has twice the seats – meaning twice the potential revenue.
For Sara, doing the math is a constant. She is also owner of Bainbridge Ballet.
“I’m sure people look at the dance studio and think this place must be raking it in,” she said. “What they don’t know is I do the cleaning, marketing, books – everything. I have one half-time staff member.”
The business subsidizes the nonprofit, providing space for rehearsal and storage for sets and costumes.
“I’m certainly not doing it to make money,” Cramer said with a laugh.
So what keeps her at the studio — sewing costumes, running through sequences, reminding girls to pin their hair back — long after she could be at home?
“I have a daughter,” she said. “I tell her ‘I care about you and I want you to develop yourself. I want you to learn how to have goals and meet them.’”
Oksana is her daughter and she has offered that lesson to her and hundreds of other Bainbridge youth.
“Kids don’t understand the opportunity they’ve had until much later,” Cramer said. “Teaching kids to work hard is important. It doesn’t matter what they do later in life, knowing what it takes to push through will serve them.”
As far as the production itself goes, the Bainbridge version is not your grandmother’s Nutcracker. Olympic Performance Group adds a contemporary, shall we say attitude to the production which features not only ballet, but lyrical jazz, acrobatics and even a little hip hop. There’s a party scene from the roaring 20s, and contemporary music mixed in as well.
For those who have never seen it, The Nutcracker Ballet is based on “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” by E.T.A. Hoffman. A young German girl, Claire, dreams of a Nutcracker Prince who has a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.
This year’s Nutcracker has an international flavor to it.
“Claire’s parents are ambassadors,” Cramer said. Each family who comes to visit is from another culture.
“We try to make it appeal to a wide age range. It’s definitely family friendly,” she said.
In fact, there are a few mother-daughter dancers, including Sara and her daughter. Set designer Scott Weaver also has a daughter in the production. It’s a shared creative activity that bonds family during the holidays.
Unlike most studio productions, Cramer invites anyone from the community to audition for parts.
“We try to create a healthy, warm atmosphere. It’s less competitive than other studios. We try to give everyone an opportunity,” Cramer said.
Which is not to say the quality of production is sacrificed. The OPG production uses professional crew and choreographers.
And this year’s performance includes guest artist Le Yin, former principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Other dancers include Chloe Goolsby as the Sugar Plum Fairy and McKenna O’Leary as Clara.
Nutcracker Ballet on Bainbridge
Olympic Performance Group presents The Nutcracker Ballet Dec. 21-23 at Bainbridge Performing Arts, 200 Madison Ave., Bainbridge.
Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 21-22 and at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 23.
Tickets, $26 for adults, $22 for students and seniors are available at Winslow Drugs and at the BPA box office.
Also, non-perishable food will be collected at the door for Helpline House. For more information, visit www.olympicperformancegroup.org.