Monday, Feb. 26, 2024|
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Courtesy of Steve Roby
Dancers from past performances of The Nutcracker Ballet from the West Hawaii Dance Theatre and Academy.
The Christmas spirit will be in full force as more than 55 local dancers from West Hawaii Dance Theatre and Academy perform The Nutcracker ballet in Waimea on Saturday.
Dancers of all ages from West Hawaii Dance Theatre and Academy, or WHDTA, will be performing the famous ballet with professional guest artists Chloe Misseldine, Derek Daniels, Amar Ramasar and Timour Bourtasenkov.
Each guest artist has an extensive resume and has traveled the world dancing and teaching at prestigious dance companies and schools.
Misseldine currently is a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, Bourtasenkov is the rehearsal director for the Cleveland Ballet, Ramasar is a principal guest artist with the Teatro dell Opera di Roma and a frequent Broadway performer, and Oahu native Daniels is the CEO of Derek Daniels Productions, a full-service entertainment productions company, and a former lead dancer.
“Having professional guest artists visit every year is a part of our mission, because we are isolated and many don’t have the opportunity to see professionals perform live,” said WHDTA Founder and Artistic Director Virginia Holte. “They inspire our youth and help give them context if they want to pursue dancing and performance as a profession.”
When the artists arrive, they are placed into The Nutcracker as dancers while also helping with choreography and other aspects of the ballet.
This year, WHDTA received special permission from the George Balanchine Trust to present Balanchine’s version of the Act 2: Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier Pas de Duex, which will be danced by Ramasar and Misseldine.
Balanchine was a famous choreographer, and the Trust helps to protect his creative works.
This will be the first time his version of the dance will be performed live on Hawaii Island.
Balanchine is known for being responsible for most of the New York City Ballet’s extensive repertoire, having created more than 150 works for the company, and paving the way for ballet to flourish in America.
“This is something people have never seen before and will be extremely exciting for our dancers and for the audience,” Holte said. “Bringing these experiences and professionals to the island is an important part of our mission as they have often helped students find opportunities in dance companies or in college.”
Holte first presented The Nutcracker in 1992 when she founded WHDTA, and dancers performed it annually until 2000 when interest dwindled. After being convinced by a former student and current dance instructor, Jenna Ojeda, the performance has gone on every year in its current form since 2014.
“We started this version of The Nutcracker nine years ago, and it started to get an audience again, which made us enthusiastic to do it every year,” Holte said. “When the pandemic hit, we couldn’t do it, so we reinvented it into a much smaller scale, and as of last year were able to start bringing it back to the original form.”
Through her many years of directing the ballet, Holte has enjoyed seeing youth evolve in their skill level each year and watching families develop before her eyes.
“When we did the show in the ’90s, a student ended up meeting a guy working on the tech side of things. They eventually got married and had two children,” Holte said. “We’ve been training their children, and now they are old enough to go to college. One of them dances and one of them does tech. It’s a really cool thing to see.”
One dancer’s parents will even be joining on stage as part of the show since it’ll be her last as a senior from Kamehameha Schools Hawaii.
Dancers and the production team have been preparing since late August, because there are many moving parts to a show like this. WHDTA has to cast the dancers, make a contract with the theater, refurbish intricate costumes, and make sure everything is prepared for guest artists.
“It is a lot of work, but it is a glorious feeling when it all comes together,” Holte said. “It’s worth it because (The Nutcracker) is a representation of family and tradition, and that’s what Christmas is about, too.”
The Nutcracker ballet will be performed at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. Tickets are going quickly but can be purchased by visiting whdt.org/nutcracker/.
A livestream of the performances also will be available — via kahilu.tv — for those who miss out on tickets or who cannot travel to Waimea.
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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