Arts and Entertainment

The Ultimate Holiday Tradition

Poulsbo’s Brittney Brown plays Clara in Dance Arts Theatre’s 21st annual “Nutcracker Ballet” Nov. 28-30 in Bremerton. Tickets are $10 general, $6 for seniors and students.  Info: www or call (360) 692-4395. - Courtesy photo
Poulsbo’s Brittney Brown plays Clara in Dance Arts Theatre’s 21st annual “Nutcracker Ballet” Nov. 28-30 in Bremerton. Tickets are $10 general, $6 for seniors and students. Info: www or call (360) 692-4395.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Does it make me a Scrooge that I’ve never been to a performance of ‘The Nutcracker?’

Local dance company director Irene Miller is definitely no Scrooge.

Every year for the past two decades, her company Dance Arts Theater has staged its version of the beloved and perennial holiday production during a weekend in late November, early December. Its “Nutcracker” production is a third-generation tradition, having been passed down to Miller from a childhood teacher, and then passed onto her daughter Kimberly, who has directed a production of her own for the past four years, directing a company at a studio near Renton.

“In fact, the weekend after ours, I’ll be going over there to see hers,” Miller says with a smile.

“The Nutcracker” seems to be part of the binding agent of the holidays for many people like the Millers.

Miller said there’s a cast and crew of about 120 working on this year’s Dance Arts Theater production alone. And that’s just one of maybe hundreds of companies in other productions across the state.

Other people, like myself, have never even been to an actual performance of the Christmas staple.

I’ve seen snippets on YouTube. Does that make me a Scrooge?

I remember some of the imagery from my youth. The ballerinas and the Lad of the Sweets. The iconic giant, freakish red-coated Nutcracker. I’ve still yet to comprehend, what is with “The Nutcracker?”

There should plenty of time to figure it all out, with the holidays approaching yet again and about a bazillion “Nutcracker” productions coming up all over Kitsap over this weekend and the next.

Well, it’s actually only four, but that still seems like quite a few productions of the same show for one county over the course of two weekends.

So I phoned Miller for the wisdom on how all these different “Nutcrackers” survive and co-exist.

“The holidays just aren’t the holidays without ‘The Nutcracker,’” she says with a Santa-like shrewdness.

Ever since her company started the tradition, “that’s all there is,” she said.

She feels like all “The Nutcracker” traditions and productions in the region actually feed off one other, noting that she makes a point to see at least one each year.

But I think the real tradition is behind the scenes.

At Dance Arts Theater, Miller said they’re now starting to see second-generation “Nutcracker” dancers after 21 years of productions.

Then there’s girls like 13-year-old junior company member Brittney Brown of Poulsbo, playing her first lead role as Clara this year, after having danced with Irene for eight years now.

And, of course, there’s guys like Sam Balcomb who’s playing Drosslemeyer. He’s been involved with Dance Arts Theater’s “Nutcracker” for 18 years now — or “all but three” if you ask him.

DANCE ARTS THEATRE’S 21st Annual “Nutcracker” will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28-29, 2:30 p.m. featuring the guest troupe Ballet San Jose, at the Bremerton Performing Arts Center, 1300 15th St. in Bremerton. Info: (360) 692-4395

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