Dazzling Dancers, Gallant Prince, and Stunning Sugar Plum Fairy Make Spirits Bright For Pacific Symphony's NUTCRACKER FOR KIDS
Visions of sugar plums will dance in their heads, when audiences of all ages are mesmerized by the magic, wonder and imagination of Tchaikovsky's treasured ballet during Pacific Symphony's "Nutcracker for Kids." For this annual extravaganza, led by Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia, the Symphony teams up with the talented young dancers of Festival Ballet Theatre (FBT) to bring to life the beloved story of Clara and her brave prince. Tchaikovsky's exquisite melodies soar and the colorful dancers enchant throughout the epic battle with the Mouse King, the Land of Sweets, Waltz of the Flowers and the captivating Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy!
"Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker' is a timeless classic because the music is absolutely gorgeous and well-known," says Maestro Kalia. "Of course, the dancers add another dimension, and the central characters, such as the Sugar Plum Fairy, are especially familiar to kids. Our collaboration with Festival Ballet Theatre is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this concert, as the dancers are some of the best in the country."
The 45-minute Family Musical Mornings performance, presented by Farmers and Merchants Bank, is especially suited for children ages 5-11, but equally relished by parents, grandparents and audiences of all ages. "Nutcracker for Kids" takes place Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $35-$66; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
Not only is "Nutcracker for Kids" based on one of the greatest musical masterpieces ever written, but the dancers from FBT on stage with the orchestra provide a mesmerizing visual aspect to the concert. And to spread more cheer, the concert hall is decorated to capture the holiday spirit; the program includes a holiday sing-along; there will also be an appearance by the jolly old fellow himself, Santa Claus. Plus, children and families are invited to the Musical Carnival, beginning at 9 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert) to participate in a special holiday craft, meet ballerinas from FBT and browse the ballet museum. Percussion instruments are in the "spotlight," and children and family members have the chance to mingle and ask questions of some of the Symphony and Youth Ensembles musicians about their instruments.
"I think the collaboration between the orchestra and the dancers is always a highlight of Pacific Symphony's production," says Kalia. "Typically, the orchestra musicians are in the pit, but for our concert experience, they are on right on stage with the dancers. Our performance is also unique because we highlight the percussion instruments, which are our spotlight instruments for this concert. I engage with the audience and tell them what to listen for, which is a personal highlight. It's this level of engagement mixed in with a holiday classic that make this production enjoyable, interactive and unique."
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, lots of creatures were stirring, including a mouse (king) ... as a family prepares for their Christmas party and young daughter Clara's imagination soars! So begins this classic tale, confirming why this is the most wonderful time of the year. The Symphony and dancers fill the stage with the beauty and wonder of the holiday season with this condensed version of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet, full of sweet melodies, captivating dancers and the brilliant imagination of this treasured tale. The story is narrated by Maestro Kalia, who along with the orchestra and dancers introduces this masterpiece to the many young audience members who will be hearing this work for the first time.
"I never got to see the 'Nutcracker' ballet as a child," laments Kalia. "My first exposure to the music was in elementary school when we played an arrangement of the music in the school band. I remember playing the 'March,' and humming the tune for the next few weeks. It immediately struck a chord with me and I was hooked."
Tchaikovsky's famous ballet was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," and the timeless tale, written in 1816, centers around a young girl named Clara. Her Uncle and Godfather, a toymaker, arrives at her family's Christmas Eve party and gives her a special doll, the Nutcracker, which makes all the other children jealous. As the story develops, Clara finds herself in an uncharted world where toy soldiers and their brave leader, the Nutcracker, battle the despicable Mouse King and his army of followers. This classic battle has children on the edge of their seats as Tchaikovsky's memorable music, performed live, fills the air with wonder. Then, dancers twirl and glide across the stage to the renowned "Waltz of the Flowers" and the enchanting "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy."
"I've conducted close to 40 productions of 'The Nutcracker' since 2013, yet I never get tired of this wonderful score," Kalia says. "It's such a joy and honor to discover new details in the music, and to work with different dancers each year. I'm always amazed at the different interpretations that the dancers bring to the show, and I greatly enjoy the collaborative aspect of this work."
A highlight of the performance takes place when the characters visit the Land of Sweets and are spellbound by dances of Spain (Chocolate), Russia (Candy Canes), China (Tea), as well as the Dance of the Reed Flutes. There, Clara and the prince are greeted by the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy and are led into a romantic "pas de deux" ("dance for two") to conclude the grand festivities. Spoiler alert! In the end, good trumps evil as the Nutcracker amazes Clara by transforming into a prince and saving her from the grasps of the Mouse King!
"I can't think of a better family activity than seeing world-class musicians and dancers perform this masterwork," Kalia adds. "The story itself puts you in the holiday spirit with its stunningly beautiful music. Whether you're a first-time or seasoned concertgoer, there is something for everyone in this concert."
Through the grace and elegance of dance, children are transported into a world of movement and art as they watch the skill and poise of professional ballet dancers. Under the direction of Salwa Rizkalla since its founding in 1988, FBT has become one of Southern California's most vibrant and accomplished professional ballet companies. FBT's significant work was recognized with a 2001 Arts Orange County Award for Outstanding Arts Organization of the Year.