Click here to make a donation to send an underprivileged child to The Nutcracker for free!  Your gift of $15 will cover the cost of one child’s ticket and OBT will match it with another $15 to send a second child.  Our goal for this  year is 1,000 children.  Will you help us share the holiday spirit? 

Nutcracker In the Classroom

By Brook Manning, OBT Teaching Artist

We are delighted to welcome Teaching Artist Brook Manning to the OBT blog!  Read on to hear all about how she and the rest of our Education & Outreach staff are sharing the holiday wonder with youth in the community.

In classrooms around Portland, over 800 lucky students are experiencing holiday magic courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s ambitious Education and Outreach programs.  OBT’s teaching artists are currently dancing their way through 39 classrooms this season, introducing George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker to children at Irvington Elementary School and in the Albina Head Start program.  OBT donated 500 Nutcracker tickets to Albina Head Start children and their families in support of our shared mission to enrich the lives of families at risk.

Into the busy morning bustle of the classrooms goes teaching artist Robyn Ulibarri, carrying with her some of the trappings of OBT’s production of The Nutcracker.  She warms-up this morning’s pre-K class to the lively sounds from the party scene and the children are encouraged to discover that they are performing basic ballet steps.

With book in hand and all the children now gathered around, Robyn tells the festive tale of The Nutcracker.  A Nutcracker doll is inspected, pointe shoes are examined and a now retired, but still sparkly, snowflake costume brings “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from the crowd of curious students.  All are eager to touch the props and imagine what it would be like to perform in the ballet themselves.

Imaginations soar during the famous battle scene between the skittering Mouse King’s army and the Nutcracker’s regiment of soldiers.  The students-turned-dancers lunge, turn, jump and gallop for a common purpose:  to defeat the dreaded Mouse King.  Asked what it would feel like to encounter a larger-than-life sized Mouse King, the class rallies together and proclaims, “We wouldn’t be afraid.  We’d fight it.  And we’d win!”

To Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music from the snow scene students create their own individual snowflake shapes.  Invention and excitement marks their movement ideas as one student, with limbs outstretched, calls out, “Look at my shape.  This is my own shape!”
Next it’s off to the “Land of the Sweets”, where each child performs their own soaring leap across the classroom.  With each jump and beaming face it is clear that the children have discovered that they can revel in their physicality as they tell their own story, without words.
Thanks to OBT’s Education and Outreach teaching artists the joy, wonder and magic of The Nutcracker is alive in our schools.


Brook holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has taught ballet at the University of Hawaii, Bates College and Portland Community College.  She is particularly interested in dance history, criticism and ethnography and has traveled around the world twice studying culture and performance through the Semester at Sea program.  She and her husband are the proud parents of two fantastic kids.

0 thoughts on ““Nutcracker” In the Classroom

  1. Don H says:
    Jan 7, 2012
    Nice article and great project to expose the children to dance and expanding their imaginations. The faces in the photos tell it all.

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