Holiday tradition of ‘The Nutcracker’ brought to life by West Hawaii Dance Theatre

  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will perform "The Nutcracker" this weekend at the Kahilu Theatre. (Joey Marshall/Courtesy Photo)
  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will perform "The Nutcracker" this weekend at the Kahilu Theatre. (Charla Photography/Courtesy Photo)
  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will perform "The Nutcracker" this weekend at the Kahilu Theatre. (Charla Photography/Courtesy Photo)
  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will perform "The Nutcracker" this weekend at the Kahilu Theatre. (Charla Photography/Courtesy Photo)

KAILUA-KONA — With the holiday season upon Hawaii, and Christmas around the corner, West Hawaii Dance Theatre is bringing the annual tradition of “The Nutcracker” ballet once again to the island.

“I think it’s a really important thing at the holidays for everybody to get behind something that’s classic, that’s fun,” instructor and dancer Terry Brock said. “I get so sick of all the angst, of anger, but here we can get together for joy, for the blessings of the holidays.”


Accompanied by music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, WHDT will perform the classic ballet at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea for three performances — at 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The ballet follows the story of a young girl, Clara, who receives a nutcracker for Christmas that transforms into a prince and takes her on an adventure to the Land of Sweets.

This year’s production is a team effort of WHDT’s child and adult dancers, professional dancers and live music by the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Brian Dollinger. Guest professional dancers are Fredrick Davis, Shaina Leibson, Miho Tsutsumi, Ryuske Kishida and Timour Bourtasenkov, of the Carolina Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet in Russia.

“This is a broad spectrum of dancers. Professional guest dancers and little guys, and they’re all coming together,” WHDT assistant Joey Marshall said. “I don’t see any conflict of egos or anything like that. Everybody’s just dancing together for the pure joy of it.”

At the center of the ballet is WHDT’s own Rayna Morphis, who plays the lead role of Clara. Morphis has been a part of “The Nutcracker” for the past three years, and loves being able to bring the story to Big Island audiences.

“My favorite part is just being able to play the character and seeing the other dancers who worked so hard bring their character to life,” Morphis said. “You feel like you’re being transported to the Land of Sweets.”

Artistic director Virginia Holte said the ballet is performed as close to Christmas as possible to get people in the holiday spirit. She said the event is unique to the Hawaiian islands outside of Oahu, where more funding and more people are usually available to create such an elaborate performance.

“I love the integration of everybody. The little kids, parents, adults, the massive production, the costumes, the way all of the details have to blend together,” Brock said. “I must say I really admire (Holte) for putting it together. Because I know, with all the things I’ve produced, the monumental amount of work it involves.”

Conductor Dollinger said the staying popularity of the ballet and Tchaikovsky’s music shows that, contrary to what he’s heard from others, arts such as dance and classical music are not dying breeds, especially on the Big Island.

“I think the thing that makes this one special, too, is the level of community involvement,” Dollinger said. “It’s not a fully professional thing where every dancer is a professional from a ballet company. …Culture is alive on this island, and people want to be a part of it.”

And it’s not just the community WHDT wants “The Nutcracker” to inspire. Dancer Alexis Pargett said she wants the younger members of the audience and the younger dancers to be inspired by the accomplishments of the older performers. Dollinger agrees.


“I think it’s very important for kids to see, because in the arts, it is inspiring the next generation,” Dollinger said. “When the little kids come and see kids their age and just a little bit older than them on stage, they believe they can do that.”

Info: Tickets for “The Nutcracker” are $49/$39 /$29 and can be purchased at

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