The holiday season is like snow: Each year it’s new and made up of different, unique aspects, but overall, there’s a sense of seasonal familiarity and the magic that comes with the end of the year.
Similarly, the dancers who perform The Nutcracker at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts on Thanksgiving weekend each year bring their own flair to the ballet, which for 30 years has been one of the hallmarks of the holiday season.
From Nov. 23-25, the ballet takes over the performing arts center with five showings of the classic holiday tale, along with the ever-popular Sugar Plum Fairy Parade.
This year marks the 30th year of the show in the Flathead Valley, and the Northwest Ballet Company, directed by Marisa Roth, boasts five high school senior dancers to lead this year’s performance on stage.
Among the five — none are older than 18 — these seniors have nearly 70 years of combined dancing experience, and have spent countless hours over the last decade and a half perfecting their craft.
But time flies, a lesson these young women have taken to heart.
“It’s kind of hard to believe this is my last Nutcracker,” said Regan Tintzman, one of the Northwest Ballet Company’s principal dancers and a senior at Whitefish High School. “You always see people in this position, but you never think you’ll be in this position.”
Tintzman, 17, has been dancing for 13 years, and will take on the role of the Snow Queen in this year’s performances. Like the rest of the senior group, Tintzman takes her role as a mentor to younger dancers very seriously, and she knows her take on the Snow Queen will be the definitive dance for the young students watching her, just like the elder students before her defined it for her.
“It’s stressful in a way because everyone’s looking up to you,” she said. “This is the role I’ve wanted since I started doing the Nutcracker.”
Tintzman will attend the University of Montana next year, double majoring in the dance program and biology.
Katie Carr, an 18-year-old senior at Our Lady of Victory homeschooling program, said being one of the seniors means setting the tone for the rest of the dance company and school. She’ll play Clara this year, which is a role typically played by a younger dancer, but she’s dancing an advanced version of the character.
“We’re trying to set a standard and an etiquette,” Carr said of her role as a mentor. “We need to be friendly and compassionate, especially as the older girls.”
Carr is dedicating her performance to her mother, who made sacrifices so her daughter could keep dancing. She hopes to continue dancing after high school.
As dancers, they’ve spent their childhoods together. Carr, one of the principal dancers in this year’s show, has known fellow senior Kylee Brewer since they were beginners.
“I literally grew up in this building,” Brewer said, looking around the Dance Arts Studio.
A 17-year-old senior homeschool student, Brewer takes on the role of Dew Drop as a demi-soloist in this year’s show.
Megan Rediger, a senior at Glacier High School, said that even though she’s been in plenty of Nutcracker ballets, the show never stays the same because the dancers change each year and Roth adds various elements to really make the show pop. She takes on the principal role of Sugar Plum Fairy this year, one of the most iconic in ballet.
“It’s such a great tradition because people can come every year and they won’t get bored,” Rediger said.
Fellow senior Anika Bennetts, a 17-year-old demi-soloist dancing as the Marzipan Shepherdess this year, said each year is rewarding because the valley really supports the show and cheers on the talent on stage. That means more to the dancers than anything, she said.
“We want to thank them for their support; it means so much,” Bennetts said. “Thanksgiving weekend isn’t even Thanksgiving weekend; it’s Nutcracker weekend.”
Shows are Friday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts. The Sugar Plum Fairy Parade will follow the 2 p.m. matinees on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available at the Kalispell Grand Hotel or the box office one hour before performances start.