Chyler White, a senior at South Whidbey High School, plays Clara in Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s filmed production of “The Nutcracker.” (Whidbey Island Dance Theatre)

Chyler White, a senior at South Whidbey High School, plays Clara in Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s filmed production of “The Nutcracker.” (Whidbey Island Dance Theatre)

Dance company brings ‘Nutcracker’ to the drive-in, living rooms

The Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s popular wintertime performance will be offered virtually this year.

  • By Grace Swanson Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, December 10, 2020 6:06am
  • LifeWhidbey Island

LANGLEY — This holiday season, Whidbey Island Dance Theatre is bringing “The Nutcracker” to a Whidbey drive-in and your living room.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the dance company filmed this year’s “Nutcracker.” The film will show Dec. 13 at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor.

Chyler White, this year’s Clara, said she is excited that the show will appear on the big screen. White, a senior at South Whidbey High School, has danced in four “Nutcrackers.”

“Unless one of the dancers becomes a movie star, we probably won’t get to say that we’re on the drive-in screen again,” White said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.”

In addition, you can also stream the film on the dance theatre’s website from Dec. 11 through Jan. 5. Since the performance is available virtually, “The Nutcracker” can be viewed on or off the island. DVDs will also be available for purchase.

“People don’t even have to get dressed up to see this year’s performance,” said Charlene Brown, founder and co-artistic director of the dance company.

Brown founded the Whidbey Island Dance Theatre, a nonprofit pre-professional dance company, in 1993. “The Nutcracker,” now in its 28th year, is the Langley company’s largest production. Most other years the ballet, is performed live at the South Whidbey High School auditorium. But this isn’t an average year.

This year’s show was filmed Nov. 20-22 at the Whidbey Children’s Theater auditorium. Some shots were taken on location around Whidbey Island, including on the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry, and at Langley Marina and Fort Casey Historical State Park.

“The motto that I’ve had the whole time is the show must go on,” said Brittany Falso, who shares the co-artistic director role with Brown.

Aspects of the filmed performance are different, but the ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” remains the same.

Clara receives a magical nutcracker from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. The Nutcracker Prince comes to life and battles the Rat Queen. After the Rat Queen’s defeat, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince journey through the Land of the Snow and the Enchanted Forest. Clara returns home and is awakened from what appears to be a dream.

In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, dancers were screened for illness before each rehearsal. They wore masks and sometimes gloves. The dancers’ masks also were incorporated into their costumes during filming.

This year’s Nutcracker Prince, Zane Vanderwood, a teacher and choreographer at Island Dance Studio in Langley, said he had to work on portraying his facial expressions and personality in a mask — an important part of a dance performance.

“I have to use a lot of my eyes and my eyebrows,” he said.

Vanderwood has played the prince for seven out of 10 years. He choreographs parts of the show with his mother, Susan Vanderwood, who has been involved in the show since 1993.

Susan Vanderwood said it was interesting to choreograph for a filmed show. Instead of creating large scenes with multiple dancers, she focused on what is seen by the camera.

Falso said the dance theatre moved forward with this year’s “Nutcracker” to provide a creative outlet for the company’s dancers. She said the production provides some normalcy during a stressful time when the dancers are spending a majority of their time doing schoolwork on Zoom.

“The Nutcracker” is the dance company’s biggest fundraiser. Brown said the arts industry has been hit hard because of the pandemic, making community support vital this year.

“I hope the community will get on board and have a ‘Nutcracker’ night at home,” Falso said. “We want to bring the holiday spirit into your living room this year, instead of you coming to the theater.”

If you go

Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s filmed production of “The Nutcracker” is screening at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater, 1403 N. Monroe Landing Road, Oak Harbor. Tickets $40 per carload in advance if purchased at Tickets purchased at the box office are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $50 per carload.

Arrive at 4:20 p.m. to enjoy concessions, a beer garden and go-karts (weather dependent). Stay after “The Nutcracker” to watch the double feature — the 2003 film “Elf” starring Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel — which is included with admission.

If you stream

If you can’t take the ferry to the Blue Fox Drive-In in Oak Harbor, you can stream the film on the Langley dance company’s website from the comfort of your own home Dec. 11 through Jan. 5. Cost is $15 to rent or $20 to buy. The video can be viewed for up to 72 hours after rental purchase. DVDs of the “The Nutcracker” will also be available for $35. Call 360-341-2221 or email for more information.

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