Joel and Debra Pearse Rogo first saw a Mid-Columbia Ballet production of The Nutcracker almost 30 years ago.
It was December 1986, and the Rogos were a few months away from buying Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet and Music and taking over the ballet company. Watching the classic holiday tale unfold on the Richland stage helped seal the deal for them.
The production had a special spirit, a feeling of community, Debra told the Herald. “We understood we would not be doing it alone,” she said.
This year’s Nutcracker is Dec. 11-13 in the auditorium at Richland High School, 930 Long Ave.
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It’s Mid-Columbia Ballet’s 40th production of the holiday classic, including the years before the Rogos came on board.
It’s going to be a beautiful show. We have some really lovely changes, some new and exciting things happening.
Debra Pearse Rogo, co-owner of Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet and Music
Joel and Debra said to expect the same music, the same magic and the same fun — but with a few surprises.
“It’s going to be a beautiful show. We have some really lovely changes, some new and exciting things happening,” Debra said.
Vanessa Zahorian and Anthony Vincent, guest artists from the San Francisco Ballet, will perform along with Mid-Columbia Ballet company members and community dancers.
The Rogos came to the Tri-Cities in spring 1987. They were living in California — Joel was stage managing and a pregnant Debra was teaching — after years traveling the world as dancers.
They didn’t expect to stay in the area too long.
“We made a pact that we would only stay here five years,” Debra said. “Obviously, we failed at that.”
But they did so happily. The Rogos found a community, made a home.
And The Nutcracker has been a vital part of that.
“I love the process. I love watching new dancers with new parts. I love creating new parts for them that push them and challenge them, and they rise to the occasion,” Debra said. “Seeing how happy they are — it’s fun.”
Joel noted that while many families attend The Nutcracker each year as a holiday tradition, for others it’s participating — on stage or backstage — that’s a cherished part of holiday fun.
It’s really nostalgic. One of my daughters is in the
Karena VanDyke, former dancer; now teaches classes
“We have former company members whose children are now performing in The Nutcracker,” he said. “It’s that kind of community tradition.”
Karena VanDyke knows that firsthand. The former Mid-Columbia Ballet dancer, who teaches classes at the Rogos’ studio, has two daughters performing in The Nutcracker this year. They are Mikayla, 13, and Alayna, 8. VanDyke and her husband, Shayne, also appear in the party scene.
“It’s really nostalgic,” VanDyke said. “One of my daughters is in the Waltz of the Flowers, just like I was. The other is an icy fairy. I remember being able to dance underneath the snow.”
She’s grateful to the Rogos for their commitment to The Nutcracker — and to the community’s artistic life.
“I think it’s wonderful that they bring such rich culture to our area with the production every year,” she said.
The Rogos said they’re looking forward to this year’s show. To the dancing, the music, the excitement, the tradition, the magic.
“We’re very proud to be part of The Nutcracker, and to continue the legacy,” Debra said. “And we hope that when we’re long gone, it will continue.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. Dec. 11, at 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12, and 2 p.m. Dec. 13.
IF YOU GO
What: Mid-Columbia Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 11, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12 and 2 p.m. Dec. 13.
Where: Auditorium at Richland High School, 930 Long Ave.