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Without the Nutcracker Ballet at the usual PSU stage this year, it appeared on a lot of lawns

DAVID F. ASHTON - After trying their costumes for the December 12th outdoor presentation of Nutcracker Vignettes, Classical Ballet Academy dancers posed for THE BEE: [back row] Tea Cake, Chloe Block; Dew Drop Fairy, Lucy Holcomb; and Snow Ball Cookie, Kandis Gomes; along with [front row] The Nutcracker, Eloisa Ribbing; Clara, the ballets main female character, Issa Ono; and Sugar Plum Fairy, Anna Stiffler. A delightful signal that the Holiday season is upon us has been watching the cast of "The Nutcracker" rehearsing for their annual, sold-out shows at Portland State University, presented by the advanced students Sellwood's Classical Ballet Academy.

With the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Classical Ballet Academy Director Sarah Rigles-Kocker realized last summer that their usual Holiday performances downtown would just not be allowed this year.

"Since the age of five I have danced in – and, eventually, began to direct my own productions of – 'The Nutcracker'," Rigles-Kocker told THE BEE. "As my now-10-year-old twins would say, 'First there is Thanksgiving, then Nutcracker, then Christmas', about the Holiday Season.

Nevertheless, Ms. Rigles-Kocker said she wanted to come up with an way that would allow for a way for the community, as well as the school's dancers, to have some sort of a "Nutcracker" – because, as she put it, "As ballet dancers 'Nutcracker' is just part of our lives."

She enlisted the help of friends – and longtime clients Tracie Erlandson, Lindsay Lichtenwalter, Kris Marcus, Dawn Mucha, JoAnne Cheechov, and Karen Dean – to help her come up with creating an outdoor tableau version of this, the most beloved ballet program of the season.

"This is a great idea; we'll help you make this happen," was the response Ms. Rigles-Kocker said she received to the request.

"I sat down – in socially-distanced outdoor meetings – with the artists Mark Molchan, Ralph Welker, and Pete D'Angelo, and tasked them to create what became the amazing art installations that represent each scene of 'The Nutcracker'. And so, with amazing props, sets, lighting and dancers we were able to create a series of 'vignettes' – moments for people to drive by to see, and to feel, the magic."

The Eastmoreland neighborhood was selected for the unique tableaus because Ms. Rigles-Kocker is a resident, and many of the past and current Classical Ballet Academy clients also live there. Thus, the 'route' of this year's drive-by program, now named "Nutcracker Vignettes", wound through the festive streets of the neighborhood.

To take in the "Nutcracker Vignettes" experience, cars of viewers started at the beginning of The Nutcracker's story, the "Party Scene". They progressed to the "Battle Scene", and on to the "Snow Scene" – and thence to many more scenes in the "Land of the Sweets". This one-evening Christmas spectacular took place on Saturday, December 12.

"Our hope was that each family could escape the cares and worries of these days – at least for a few minutes – by stepping into (or more accurately driving by) the wonderful world of 'The Nutcracker', even in the year 2020!" exclaimed Sarah Rigles-Krocker. The seemingly endless lines of cars snaking through Eastmoreland along the route of these "tableus in tents", all four hours of the Nutcracker Vignettes on December 12th, suggests that her hope was more than realized!


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