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The Nutcracker soldiers on

Margaux Massey, Staff Reporter - November 28, 2012

The Christmas season always brings certain traditions which warm the hearts of the community. This year, the Central Washington Dance Ensemble, the Central Washington University Orchesis Dance Company and the Central Theatre Ensemble have banded together to bring an old tradition back to Ellensburg, with three performances of The Nutcracker in early December.

“We’ve been sort of trying to get a collaboration going with the university ever since I arrived,” said Jane Venezia, artistic director of the Central Washington Dance Ensemble and production director of The Nutcracker. Venezia has been in Ellensburg for four years, but aside from a collaboration with the music department during her first year here, this is the first time she has worked with the school.

Before Venezia came to Central, the Ellensburg Youth Ballet had a yearly tradition of performing The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol on alternating years with the college.
When the Ellensburg Youth Ballet disbanded, the performances stopped.

The Central Washington Dance Ensemble used to do all of their performances in the Morgan Middle School auditorium, but due to safety issues concerning the age of the auditorium, it closed down last year.

“It was just lucky for us that this was the year they wanted to do the collaboration again,” Venezia said.

The biggest difference for Venezia in this year’s production, as opposed to the ten other productions of The Nutcracker which she has been a part of, is having to stay in touch with university personnel.

“Jane [Venezia] and I have talked before about wanting to have The Nutcracker and having it be a collaboration,” said Therese Young, dance program director for Central Washington University. “We used to have The Nutcracker every other year and I miss it. It’s a great performance and opportunity for our students and they work so hard for it.”

Since the Central Washington University Orchesis Dance Company is made up of college students and the Central Washington Dance Ensemble is mostly younger kids, the oldest being 17, the collaboration between the two groups definitely presents a different atmosphere for the older dancers.

“It’s like going from being hands-on to being a spectator,” said Jelani Kee, a senior musical theater major playing the roles of Arabian, Chinese and big soldier in the play. “Orchesis is a peer-to-peer atmosphere and the Central Washington Dance Ensemble is us sitting back and being taught things. It’s almost like being in class again.”

Despite the age difference, the two groups of dancers don’t have a problem interacting with each other.

“Since we’re older, we usually dance with just us,” said Krista Behling, junior elementary education major playing a dew drop and a snowflake. “We are only really around the younger kids when we’re on a break.”

Kee agreed, but went on to talk about how even though the other performers were children, they were professional.

“They know exactly what they are supposed to be doing and they do it,” Kee said.

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