Lambs Sienna Mueca, Minuet Cryderman, Ari Bay rehearse for “The Nutcracker” ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s annual production of the ballet. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Lambs Sienna Mueca, Minuet Cryderman, Ari Bay rehearse for “The Nutcracker” ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s annual production of the ballet. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau Dance Theatre is ready to get cracking

“The Nutcracker” is set to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ahead of the holidays, visions of sugar plums won’t just be dancing in the heads of non-stirring Juneauites — they’ll be performing on stage at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé.

Juneau Dance Theatre’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” — Sugar Plum Fairy and all — is back again for four performances across three days in the JDHS auditorium with a guest artists Elizabeth Murphy, principal dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Zachary Catazaro, principal dancer with the Cleveland Ballet.

“We are excited to present these artists — ballet dancers of the highest quality — to our Juneau community,” said Juneau Dance Theatre artistic director Zachary Hench in a news release announcing the show.

Those who make it a tradition to check out Tchaikovsky will recognize Murphy from a past production.

“Elizabeth Murphy is returning as our Sugar Plum Fairy,” said Bridget Lujan, Juneau Dance Theatre’s executive director by email. “She first came to Juneau to teach our summer program in 2019 — she was so wonderful to work with, that (Hench) invited her back in December as our guest artist. She’s lovely — a principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet. Truly top notch!”

For those less familiar with the popular 130-year-old, two-act ballet, its story focuses on a young girl named Clara who is gifted a nutcracker at an eventful Christmas Eve party. Magic, battles and a showcase of dances in the Land of Sweets ensue — all set to iconic compositions of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
Elizabeth Eriksen dances as the Dew Drop Fairy during rehearsal for “The Nutcracker.” The two-act ballet is a holiday season tradition for Juneau Dance Theatre.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Elizabeth Eriksen dances as the Dew Drop Fairy during rehearsal for “The Nutcracker.” The two-act ballet is a holiday season tradition for Juneau Dance Theatre.

Juneau Dance Theatre is doing its part to familiarize audiences with the piece. Ahead of Friday’s performance, JDT will perform for about 800 Juneau students.

“’The Nutcracker’ is such a magical experience for people of all ages and a wonderful introduction to dance,” Hench said. “It is truly a joy to provide the gift of ballet — and the opportunity to see it — to children in Juneau.”

In addition to the guest artists, the cast includes more than 80 Juneau Dance Theatre students and adults, ranging in age from 5-78 years old, according to the dance theater. The four-performance run Friday, Saturday and Sunday will feature multiple casts, according to the dance theater, which allows the school to showcase its talented students and provide more opportunities for dancers to shine.

Errol Culbreth and Scotlyn Beck (Polichinelles) rehearse ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The immensely popular ballet is coming to the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Friday through Sunday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Errol Culbreth and Scotlyn Beck (Polichinelles) rehearse ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The immensely popular ballet is coming to the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Friday through Sunday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The Land of Sweets Tea and Tour is back this year, too.

“We have a event within the event.” Lujan said. “We host about 75 guests of all ages for this and usually sell out early. For an extra $20 on top of the performance tickets, they arrive early for a story and craft before the show; VIP seating right down in front; fancy tea sandwiches and other sweet treats, and a walk along the ‘candy bar’ to fill their baggies during intermission; and after the show, they are invited on stage to take photos with the dancers. It truly is a hit!”

Lujan said while the feature tends to attract children who want to wear fancy dresses and crowns, it’s proven popular with some older crowds, including adults who come together as their “girls night out,” entire families and grandparents.

Familiar faces and features will be joined by some new procedures, according to Lujan.

“One thing that’s different this year, is that seating is reserved,” Lujan said. “Tickets will be available at the door, however we recommend buying in advance so you can look at the seat map and select your seats. It will help prevent delays at show time. No telling what will be available if you purchase at the door, even if arriving very early. Box office opens an hour before performance; house opens at half hour before performance.”

Tickets can be purchased online at http://juneaudance.org/.

Grace Scott and Emma Rowan (background) await a visit from a fairy during rehearsal for “The Nutcracker.” (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Grace Scott and Emma Rowan (background) await a visit from a fairy during rehearsal for “The Nutcracker.” (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Current COVID-19 mitigation measures for the JDHS auditorium include: Staying home if you are sick, optional masks (except for close contacts, who must mask for 10 days after exposure to COVID), and staying away from the space for five days after testing positive for COVID (the day of the positive test is Day 0).

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

Know & Go

What: “The Nutcracker”

When: 7 p.m., Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, 1639 Glacier Avenue.

Admission: Tickets cost $25 or $20 for youths (3-17) or seniors (65 and older). The Land of Sweets Tea and Tour costs an additional $20 and includes admission to either the Saturday or Sunday 2 p.m. performances. Crafts start at 1 p.m.

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