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Candace Bouchard performs for 23rd year in classic ballet



COURTESY: BLAINE TRUITT COVERT - Candace Bouchard plays Sugar Plum Fairy, as Peter Franc as Cavalier stands by, in last season's 'The Nutcracker.' Bouchard has played each of the adult woman roles in 'The Nutcracker.'It’s that time of year, and Candace Bouchard already has a holiday tree, adornments and real cedar garlands.

And she’ll be taking part in another tradition starting Saturday.

“It seems so weird that someday I won’t be doing ‘The Nutcracker,’” she says. “I love being a part of that feeling, and I’m excited for people to come and watch it. I like to be part of spreading that holiday cheer.”

Then again, it’ll be the 23rd consecutive year that Bouchard stars in “The Nutcracker,” and the 14th year of performing in the George Balanchine work for Oregon Ballet Theatre. She admits there comes a point where, ‘Oh, this show is going to be hard ... but I get to do such awesome roles, and it’s nice to come back to something every year.

“It’s always a funny thing when they announce our season. It always gets a laugh. ‘And, we’re going to do ‘The Nutcracker’ ...”

COURTESY: OREGON BALLET THEATRE - CANDACE BOUCHARDBouchard, 33, and fellow soloist Ansa Deguchi are the longest-tenured OBT dancers. Bouchard has performed every adult female role in “The Nutcracker,” and this year she’ll be performing four — Frau Stahlbaum, Dewdrop, Sugar Plum Fairy and a Spanish dancer — when OBT puts on its annual show, Dec. 10-26 at Keller Auditorium.

“It’s the fewest I’ve ever done,” Bouchard says. Focusing on certain roles and being allowed time between performances keeps her fresh, she adds, because it’s a demanding ballet — “at every level of the company, it’s tiring.”

Dewdrop is her favorite role.

“There are plenty of technical challanges, and it’s never easy. I think it’s the 12th year I’ve danced that part,” she says. “I get to play and expand myself in that every year. You’re by yourself, but with 14 other people onstage, and there’s a nice sense of camaraderie. ... It’s so lush and beautiful (amid flowers), it’s easy to get carried away in it. And I feel like all the choreography lines up with the music, and it’s what your body would want to be doing.”

COURTESY: BOUCHARD FAMILY - Candace Bouchard was Mouse in her first role for 'The Nutcracker' for St. Louis Ballet at age 11.With the Sugar Plum Fairy, “you’re the queen of the land of treats, you say hi to Angels and greet the Prince and Marie when they come up; you get to set the tone for the second act,” Bouchard says. “I love being that person. You do pirouettes, and run and jump.” She’ll share the role with Xuan Cheng, Eva Burton, Deguchi and Kelsie Nobriga.

Frau is an anchor in a party scene, a nondancing role. Spanish is really short, “but you’re shot out of a cannon. It cracks me up every time, as we get off stage, whoever my partner is, they’re gasping in the wings. It’s a surprisingly breathy role.”

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” has evolved somewhat, through subtle changes through the years. Christopher Stowell brought Balanchine’s version to OBT — his parents danced for Balanchine, and they would visit the company. Some of the people who worked for Stowell, the past artistic director, remain.

Kevin Irving, the artistic director working on his fourth “Nutcracker” at OBT, “is excited about the theatrical elements, and he has made tweaks in lighting design. He likes to work with kids and play up the dramatic moments — especially in the party scene to keep things alive when there’s no dancing going on.”

But the tradition of “The Nutcracker” remains unchanged. OBT is one of the few companies with rights to produce Balanchine’s version, which debuted in New York City in 1954. For the first time, the cast of 120-plus dancers, including 98 from the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre, used OBT’s South Waterfront home studio to prepare.

“It’s the same choreography, costumes, sets and music,” Bouchard says. “It does change in who’s dancing what roles. You try to get people moving into new roles, so it’s not stagnating.”

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s devoted fans attend “The Nutcracker,” but it’s also a production that lends itself to new audiences — couples, families with kids.

More than 45,000 annually attend OBT “Nutcracker” shows.

For Bouchard and other dancers, it’s a challenge each year to take part in new ballets or perform new material.

“But to have this one thing every year, where you go back and do a ton of performances ... you’re onstage a lot and it’s really fun,” she says. “That moment of predictability is kinda nice.”

There’ll be 18 shows of “The Nutcracker,” including eight with the OBT Orchestra, Dec. 10-26 at Keller Auditorium,

222 S.W. Clay St. Tickets are $23-$146. Check www.obt.org for availability of tickets and information.

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