In Sitka, ‘Nutcracker’ a beloved holiday tradition

More than 80 community members will take the stage for Sitka Studio of Dance’s “The Nutcracker.” The show is a longstanding tradition in town, having been performed nearly nine times.

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Makayla Murphy dances as the peacock during “The Nutcracker” party scene. (Photo courtesy of Bobbi Jordan)
Makayla Murphy dances as the peacock during “The Nutcracker” party scene. (Photo courtesy of Bobbi Jordan)

To keep it fresh, director Melinda McAdams changes the flavors of Tchaikovsky’s immortal ballet every time she stages it.

If you live in Sitka, you’ve probably seen “The Nutcracker” at least once.

But just in case, here’s 9-year-old Danica Majeski with the rundown:

“It tells kind of an interesting story and it’s kind of just made up . So the story is just about a little girl who gets a nutcracker and it turns into be a real man,” Danica says. “It’s all just a magical dream she’s never had. It’s mostly dancing. So… yeah.”

Danica is one of the “little bakers” who dance out from under Mother Ginger’s skirt in this year’s production (it’s really hot under there, she says). She’s been watching the nutcracker here in Sitka since she was three. This is the first year she has been in the show, as you have to be a fourth grader to dance in it.

“I was really excited because ever since I was really little I’ve been like, ‘When am I going to be in ‘The Nutcracker?’ ‘When am I going to be in ‘The Nutcracker?’”

Sitka School of Dance’s Melinda McAdams directs the ballet every other year. It’s quite the tradition, having been performed since 1998. To keep it fresh, McAdams changes the themes. Sometimes it’s Alaska themed with pesky mosquitos instead of fighting rats. Other times the performance has an international flair with the characters traveling to different countries.

McAdams says this year’s version of the show takes the little girl, Marie, and the real man, the Nutcracker, to the Land of the Sweets. That means a lot of food-themed choreography.

“We are doing it I would say a different version than anywhere else in the world is,” she said. “For example our coffee, we didn’t dress up like coffee beans and coffee cups we set our dance in a beatnik coffee house. We took some liberties with our food. Our tea is some little British nannies with their tea cups.”

As she’s produced the show nine times, she has to find other ways to keep it interesting for herself and her dance students. The music selection of the well known score also spices up the scenes. One selection features the klezmer and another uses a mandolin. Here’s McAdams’ daughter, Delaney, who dances as Marie, on the tunes:

“The Sugar Plum Fairy music is more jazz and like upbeat. It’s sassy music. But like the candy cane music is like horns and trumpets. I think it’s really cool to add different styles to the nutcracker.”

And it wouldn’t be “The Nutcracker” without some debonair costumes. The cast is dressed to the nines. Makayla Murphy, 16, dances as a peacock in the production. She says she loves her get-up.

“It’s like a tie dye unitard with a big bussel of tulle where the bussel goes,” she says. “It’s kind of like very tight pajamas.”

And there are tutus. Seventeen-year-old Sienna Reid is the Snow Queen.

“I get to wear this really awesome pancake tutu it’s blue and has a lot of sparkles and rhinestones,” she says.

Sienna Reid as the Snow Queen. (Photo courtesy of Bobbi Jordan)
Sienna Reid as the Snow Queen. (Photo courtesy of Bobbi Jordan)

But, the costume isn’t the best thing, Reid says. The best thing for the dancer who grew up in the Sitka Studio of Dance is she gets to perform her dream role. And that the whole community is a part of it.

“It’s amazing our little town can put together this huge performance it’s kind of crazy it blows my mind,” Sienna says.

Longtime Sitkan Don Lehman has been in nearly all of “The Nutcracker” performances. He says it’s what makes Sitka so special.

“It’s fun watching the young kids grow and develop and they start out with some of the smaller parts and they develop into these beautiful talented dancers,” he said.

And that is a big part of what makes Sitka’s Nutcracker such a delicious treat, even after 17 years.