Mid-Columbia Ballet to debut 2020-inspired ‘Nutcracker’ on Friday

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — For ballerinas with the Mid-Columbia Ballet, this time of year means lots of plies and pirouettes in preparation for everyone’s favorite holiday tradition. But in the age of COVID-19, Clara’s dream adventure has taken on an adventure of its own.

“I’ve been doing ‘Nutcracker’ in the Tri-Cities for 33 years,” said artistic director Debra Pearse Rogo. “I know how long it takes to set a snow scene, a battle scene…but all that’s off.”

The 2020 version of “The Nutcracker” has been re-branded as “Clara’s Tri-Cities Nutcracker Dream” by the Mid-Columbia Ballet, trading the stage for the movie set and filming scenes all over the Tri-Cities.

It all started over wine and Zoom for Pearse Rogo. She was chatting with her friend in California that works in the art and entertainment industry.

“We thought, how can we try and make a sense of normalcy?” she said. “And we kind of came up with this idea.”

Soon the idea became reality, with Pearse Rogo assembling her dance team and a production team, calling the project “a love letter to the Tri-Cities,

Janet Krupin was hired on as the story developer, born and raised in the Tri-Cities, but recently relocated from New York.

“I’ve always dreamed the Tri-Cities could be like the Hollywood of the northwest,” said Krupin. “With the technology and the talent here, it’s really exciting.”

She infused her enthusiasm and experience on Broadway into the project, after her world shut down.

“I came home because of the pandemic, but I honestly feel so blessed to be scooped up to low-key make a real movie,” she said. “I’m going between the dance team and camera team making sure that our story is folded in to ‘The Nutcracker’ that we know and love.”

 Meanwhile, the dancers themselves had to adjust to the change, including filming outdoors in all kinds of Tri-Cities weather.

Mia Alexander, Lillian Callister and Baleigh Bierman are three of the seniors who won’t experience the traditional, final ‘Nutcracker’ production.

“Being seniors and this is our last year it’s a little different but we also get a movie, a really cool memoir in a sense, so that’s a positive,” said Alexander.

“It ended up working out, we’re still getting to dance which is what we wanted to do,” said Callister.

And when fifth grader Julia Ana Dawson was chosen to play the role of Clara, she was thrilled despite knowing about the changes.

“I saw my name and I thought they made a mistake,” she said. “I think it’s been really fun, it’s a different experience, but I still really like it.”

As Pearse Rogo said, for everyone involved, the goal is to provide a small bit of normalcy during the pandemic

“Tchaikovsky still slaps,” said Krupin. “That’s the thing about ‘The Nutcracker,’ the melodies are iconic.”

A small bit of normalcy, and some holiday cheer – with a twist.

“I hope we make people smile, I hope we make people cry, it’s going to be so beautiful,” said Krupin.

“Clara’s Tri-Cities Nutcracker Dream” debuts on Friday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. on the Mid-Columbia Ballet’s YouTube channel. It’s free to the public.