Digital Dancing: How the Pacific Northwest Ballet Transitioned to Online Format for Annual Nutcracker

Maya Shields, Staff Writer

2020 has been filled with attempts to bring a sense of normalcy to everything that has been turned upside down by COVID-19 and various other impactful events. As the holiday season approaches, many companies are dealing with the digital switch and one in particular, which has taken a large hit, is the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). Their annual performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker brings in a full quarter of their revenue, so not only is this financial hit impactful but seeing The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition for many families across the city.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Pacific Northwest Ballet has gone digital with this year’s performance of The Nutcracker. They will be selling digital access to an archival performance of the show. Their packages range from 1-week to 2-week unlimited viewing of the performance at affordable prices so that families don’t miss out on their Christmas traditions.

Aside from families’ traditions, dozens of Pacific Northwest Ballet students are missing out on their chance to demonstrate their months of training and hard work in the ballet. Last year’s performances of The Nutcracker included 140 local children, all students at the PNB. But, the PNB isn’t the only school having their student’s dance in The Nutcracker, some of Prep’s very own students have been in the PNB’s annual performance as well, including senior Blake Weld and her two brothers.

Reflecting on the experience, Weld said, “the whole atmosphere is so exciting because of the hustle of everything backstage with being with the professional dancers, dancing with the live orchestra, and rushing to get hair and makeup done in the dressing rooms.”

While families like the Welds have spent the past 12 years behind the stage at the PNB, many families have created a tradition of watching the PNB’s performance of The Nutcracker every year, like sophomore Isabel Moorhead and her family. This year would’ve marked her family’s 12th year in attendance at the Nutcracker, but they are excited to take advantage of the PNB’s digital option. “My family has decided to purchase the digital recording of it. It will allow for a resemblance of normalcy during this COVID Christmas,” said Moorhead.

Regardless of whether they’re used to being behind the scenes or in the crowd, Weld expressed that “people will definitely be missing the atmosphere of sitting in awe in McCaw Hall at the sheer beauty of the sights and sounds because this will not come through as clearly on a screen.”

Whether they’re carrying out a long-lived family tradition or looking for something new to bring some joy into the holiday season this year, everyone should look into the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s digital option of this year’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. It is a great source of holiday cheer and fun for the whole family to enjoy.