Submitted by Northwest Ballet

Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker, Olympia’s holiday favorite for over 30 years, is returning to The Washington Center in December with breathtaking new sets for the Snow and Land of Sweets scenes, brilliantly created by local artist, Jill Carter.

Northwest Ballet The Nutcracker
Photo courtesy: Jill Carter

Carter’s first job in the theater was working backstage at Ballet Northwest’s 1987 production of The Nutcracker. She fell in love with live performance and attributes the magic of The Nutcracker as the inspiration for her career in theatrical design. She has been a part of Ballet Northwest’s production ever since and has done several scenic designs for them, including the previous Land of the Sweets set in 1996.

According to Carter, art nouveau and French ironwork designs heavily inspired the new Land of the Sweets design. “The looping shapes and fluid curves were very inspiring and lent themselves naturally to be recreated into candy swirls. After playing with hundreds of design combinations and colors pallets, I finally settled on a colorful but very muted palate, one that looks lush, romantic and fantastical but is hopefully not so bright that it won’t overshadow the dancers. The main backdrop is a cut drop to look like a large gate in the palace, overlooking the snowy valley, to add a sense of depth to the stage,” she said.

To create the Snow Kingdom, Carter studied the painting style of Japanese winter wood prints. “There was a simplicity to the style of painting the snow on the trees, and the trees were more pine then the typical northwest fir trees in most Nutcracker snow scenes, leaving a more open and lacey design to the snow-laden branches. I also wanted to add in the Land of the Sweets palace with its decorative iron gates, visible in the distance in the snow scene, the Prince and Clara’s destination,” said Carter.

Northwest Ballet The Nutcracker
Photo courtesy: Jill Carter

To create all of these Snow Kingdom and the Land of the Sweets backdrops, Carter and her team used approximately:

  • 12,200 square feet of cotton muslin fabric
  • 10,300 square feet of plastic to protect the floor to lay out the drops
  • 67 gallons of paint
  • 615 hours to design both scenes and create all the paint elevations, drafting, and build the models.
  • 1,900 hours to paint it all, using 16 local professional scenic artists and hundreds of volunteers.

Over two-hundred people make up the cast, which features local dancers as young as 8 years old plus Ballet Northwest company dancers. Ballet Northwest’s dance company is comprised of over 70 dancers age 12 and older, drawn from Thurston, Pierce, Mason, and Lewis counties. Dancers from the company recently studied at the summer programs of prestigious institutions such as American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Oregon Ballet Theatre, among others.

Ballet Northwest’s Artistic Directors Ken and Josie Johnson choreograph the production and it is sponsored by The Olympian, Andrew Kapust DDS, Kell-Chuck Glass and 94.5 ROXY.

Northwest Ballet The Nutcracker
Photo courtesy: Ballet Northwest

What: Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker
When: 7:30 p.m. on December 8, 9, 15, and 16; 2:00 p.m. on December 9, 10, 16, and 17.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts
How: Ticket Office – 360-753-8586 or order online at

About: Since 1970, Ballet Northwest has been a community-based group dedicated to promoting, teaching, and preserving the art of dance in Southwestern Washington. The company offers educational opportunities for local dancers as well as outreach throughout the community.

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