Westside Ballet Of Santa Monica Celebrates 47th Annual Nutcracker Season
SoCal's longest running production of The Nutcracker returns for its 47th magical Holiday Season. Westside Ballet of Santa Monica's talented pre-professional dancers share the world class Broad Stage with seven accomplished professional guest artists to present nine enchanting ballet productions, scheduled from November 30 - December 8.
One of one of few Nutcracker ballets danced to live music, Westside's The Nutcracker is a close rendition of George Balanchine's classical Nutcracker ballet, paying homage to the original danced in 19th-Century Russia. The Santa Monica College Symphony Orchestra--led by Maestro Elizabeth Stoyanovich--masterfully weaves Tchaikovsky's majestic score with the artistry of Westside's breathtakingly costumed dancers. Westside Ballet's co-founder Yvonne Mounsey danced professionally with George Balanchine, as one of his original New York City Ballet's prima ballerinas. Mounsey brought his Holiday Classic to Southern California in 1973, adding a few touches of her own artistic choreography.
Westside's Nutcracker has sold out every year since the company has performed at The Broad Stage in 2013. Drawing dancers from their affiliated school (Westside School of Ballet), resident professional guest artists, the company also welcomes new guest artists, including New York City Ballet soloist, Savannah Lowery, who will perform the exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy.
"The dancing, the atmosphere, the orchestra--they all come together to create an unforgettable and joyous outing to the theater for the entire family to get into the holiday spirit. This production is known as the most child-friendly production in the region," says Martine Harley, Westside Ballet's Artistic Director. "Keeping our performances affordable provides the perfect opportunity to introduce ballet to children of all ages, with timeless classical music, beautiful costumes, special effects, and a fairytale story."
Based on the romanticist E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and the Marius Petipa classic, this is the complete, traditional ballet from the Victorian-style party scene to the glittering Sugar Plum Fairy. Over 100 dancers, 225 costumes, and four lavishly designed scenes refreshed over the years with new backdrops and accoutrements, the Westside production preserves its most beloved traditional characters and scenes-the tree that grows, a firing cannon, and falling snow over a stunning corps de ballet of ballerinas.
It's Christmas Eve at her parents' Holiday party, when a mysterious gift from young Clara's godfather, the wizardly toymaker Drosselmeyer, sparks a wondrous adventure. Audiences join Clara along her magical voyage with her Nutcracker Prince as they battle the evil Mouse King in a sword duel and travel to a land of enchantment--with swirling snowflakes; the shimmering Snow Queen; angels gliding on clouds; waltzing flowers; small Polichinelles popping out from underneath Mother Ginger's giant skirt; exotic national dances (Spanish chocolate, Arabian coffee, Peppermints, Chinese tea, marzipan Mirlitons); and the glittering Sugarplum Fairy who tiptoes to the delicate, music-box chimes of a celesta-before Clara must finally depart and say adieu to the full court of fairies and sugarplums of this fantastical dreamworld.
Performing with Westside for her first time is NYCB soloist, Savannah Lowery, who will perform the Sugar Plum Fairy. After 17 years with NYCB, Ms. Lowery recently relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a medical degree, follwing in both her parents' footsteps. She was featured in Dance Magazine as an example that yes, dancers really can have it all! Ms. Lowery graced the Lincoln Center stage with her strength and fluidity in George Balanchine's Agon as her final performance June of 2018.
Westside Ballet is pleased to present two new new principal male guest artists: Los Angeles born Eli Grushka, formerly of ABT Studio Company, who will accompany pre-professional dancer Mirabelle Weinbach as the Sugar Plum Fairy's Cavalier; and Andrew Brader, of Barak Ballet and SFDanceworks, who will perform the demanding Arabian pas de deux, the second performance weekend with pre-professional advanced dancer, Olivia Polite and others.
Westside also is thrilled to welcome back four more outstanding male resident guest artists: Evan Swenson (formerly with Atlanta Ballet) as Savannah Lowery's Sugar Plum Cavalier; Johnny Zhong (formerly with Classical Ballet of Guangzhou) as the leaping Russian soloist; Jack Virga Hall (Assistant Artistic Director at Pacific Dance Theater, and recently on tour with Ballet D'Hommes) as Arabian pas de deux (first weekend); and David Block (Inland Pacific Ballet) debuting as the dynamic Soldier Doll. Mr. Block performed with Westside Ballet Alumna Lyrica Blankfield in the company's Centennial Gala celebrating Yvonne Mounsey's would-be hundredth birthday in June of 2019.
Pacific Palisades resident Mirabelle Weinbach, who started at Westside School of Ballet at age 5, will dance the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy for her third and final time since she debuted in that role in the Nutcracker Suite at age 15. She has advanced through the ranks with her outstanding work ethic and professionalism, dancing every role from Clara to the Dew Drop Fairy with ease and grace. Mirabelle also received training in selective summer programs such as the New York's School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle.
Palisades Charter High School Senior, Olivia Polite has been dancing at Westside Ballet for more than a decade, and this year will mark Olivia's 9th season of Nutcracker performances. She has performed in nearly every part of the Nutcracker from a tiny Party Child and Mouse, to the elegant corps de ballet and soloists in the second act's 'Land of Sweets.' In addition to her other roles, Olivia will reprise her part in the sinuous Arabian pas de deux for her final season. At the statuesque height of 5'10", Olivia has been a runway model in LA Fashion Week.
The 2019 Nutcracker production also features several young male cast members from Westside School of Ballet's Boys Division, which is thriving. (After the #boysdancetoo movement caused by the Prince George/ Good Morning America Controversy, the studio announced free trial classes for all boys and young men who might be interested in ballet.)
Santa Monica resident Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein (16), a junior at Santa Monica High School, will appear in his 7th production of The Nutcracker at The Broad Stage, performing his debut in a principal role, The Snow Queen's Cavalier and the Spanish pas de deux, choreographed to showcase his stellar partnering skills.
This production of The Nutcracker is made possible in part by: a grant from the City of Santa Monica - as well as grants from The Rotary Club and Pacific Palisades Woman's Club - and sponsorships from local Santa Monica individuals, organizations, and businesses such as The Huntley Hotel, Ovation, Lyft Scooters, Urth Caffe, Audi of Santa Monica, and more.
According to Executive Director Allegra Clegg, engaging with the community is a priority for Westside. "We offer a free 'Dance Talks' enrichment series throughout the year in which guest lecturers give informal talks on the many attributes of dance in a child's life. Since our inception, we have offered affordable performances and donated thousands of tickets to deserving community organizations This year we are pleased to announce a new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Monica where we are now offering ballet class as part of their after school program."
Following in this tradition, for the fourth consecutive year, approximately one thousand elementary grade students in the Santa Monica-Malibu and the Los Angeles Unified School districts will be treated to private, abbreviated, presentations of The Nutcracker held on Wednesday, December 4th and Friday, December 6th - both at 11am. Children will hear a narrated version of The Nutcracker story and see excerpts from the ballet followed by Q&A with the dancers.
Westside Ballet will open its doors to its Thursday, December 5th preview performance to local Veterans and members of many charities and organizations such as: PAL (Santa Monica Police Activities League), Taking the Reins, Neighborhood Youth Association, Allies for Every Child, Vet Tix, Venice Family Clinic, Everybody Dance, A Place called Home, Community Corp of Santa Monica, Virginia Avenue Park, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.
Under an education initiative launched in 2013, Westside's dancers who are high school students concurrently enrolled in Santa Monica College dance course 59A will receive credit for the performances. So will Santa Monica College Symphony members who are Santa Monica College students. The credits are transferable to any of California's public four-year colleges and universities.
Westside Ballet's production of The Nutcracker is a Los Angeles tradition dating all the way back to 1973 - the longest running Nutcracker production in Los Angeles.
Many professional dancers have made their stage debuts in Westside's Nutcracker. A few of them include: Monique Meunier (NYCB, ABT); Anna Liceica (ABT); Joy Womack (Bolshoi Ballet and Kremlin Ballet Theater); Martine Harley (Houston Ballet); Melissa Barak (NYCB, Los Angeles Ballet, Barak Ballet); Stayce Camparo (Kansas City Ballet); Andrew Veyette (NYCB); and Francis Veyette (Pennsylvania Ballet). Among the newest are: Shelby Tzung (National Ballet of Canada); Lucia Connolly (Joffrey Ballet); Molly Novak (Semperoper Ballett, Boston Ballet); Severina Wong (Ballet West II); Giorgia Martelloni-Zabriskie (Dance Theater of Harlem); and Lyrica Brielle Blankfein who dances on Broadway in Anastasia the Musical.
The Nutcracker will be performed with the Santa Monica College Symphony at the Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Show dates and times: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Friday Dec. 6th at 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7-8 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. All tickets are $45. Tickets may be purchased online at www.westsideballet.tix.com, or by phone (additional fees apply) at (800) 595 - 4849 (4TIX).