Stitching a community back together: FSU Panama City students help create costumes for ‘The Nutcracker’

After the devastation of Hurricane Michael in 2018, a lack of venues left the Panama City area without stages large enough to host productions like “The Nutcracker.”

This year, the holiday tradition is back, and Florida State University Panama City students are part of its return. Members of the FSU PC sewing club, Project Runway, helped create costumes for a Panama City Ballet production that showcases local artistry.

“Every time I say ‘Nutcracker,’ people say, ‘we used to go to that every year,’” said Tiffany Swan, executive director of Panama City Ballet. “As I started learning about the history of the ‘Nutcracker’ in Panama City, I realized it had never been presented with only local talent.”

Swan established the Panama City Ballet to organize a production of “The Nutcracker” that would bring together several dance studios. She purchased many costumes from an Alabama-based troupe but needed more.

Students from Project Runway heard about Swan’s need for more costumes and used the campus’ Digital Design Studio as a space for their first project — crafting trousers for the mouse soldiers who attack the Nutcracker’s regiment.


“Project Runway has all these resources,” said club president Justine Sowell, who also studied dance at a Panama City studio. “I really like to do community projects, so today we’re making mouse pants.”

For years, the Panama City Marina Civic Center hosted “The Great Russian Nutcracker,” performed by a touring troupe from Russia, each holiday season. The civic center remains closed due to the severe damage from Hurricane Michael.

“The Civic Center is still gone, the Martin Theatre is gone, the dance studios and the symphony are performing at high schools,” Swan said. “It’s really sad, and a community cannot thrive without the arts.”

“The Nutcracker” will take place from Dec. 8-10 at the Arnold High School auditorium in Panama City Beach. In advance of the show, FSU Panama City will host a Nutcracker-themed children’s tea party and an afternoon lecture about the ballet on Dec. 2. The lecture, from 3:30-5 p.m. in the Holley Academic Center, is free and open to the public as part of FSU Panama City’s Illumination series. The tea party is a ticketed event to raise funds for Panama City Ballet’s production.

For tickets and more information, visit