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Westside Ballet To Present THE NUTCRACKER This Holiday Season

The favorite holiday classic returns for the 49th year.

Westside Ballet To Present THE NUTCRACKER This Holiday Season

The favorite holiday classic returns for the 49th year

The longest-running NUTCRACKER production in SoCal returns beginning Thanksgiving weekend for eight public performances at BroadStage in Santa Monica.

A Los Angeles holiday tradition for all ages since 1973, Westside Ballet's version of the classic preserves the spirit of choreographer George Balanchine as carried on by Westside's co-founder Yvonne Mounsey, who pioneered the role of Center Spanish while a New York City Ballet principal dancer.

"The lavish performances, featuring both world-class professional dancers and pre-professional and student performers, are an ideal way to expose children to classical music and dance," says Producer and Westside Board President Judith Meister. "The holiday spirit truly leaps to life as audiences are invited to follow Clara and her Nutcracker Prince on a snow-dusted, sugary journey that only Tchaikovsky could have composed."

The Westside production features over 85 dancers, 225 costumes, and four lavishly designed scenes that have been updated over the years with new backdrops and accoutrements, but still retains the most beloved traditional characters and iconic moments-including the tree that grows, a firing cannon, and falling snow over a stunning corps de ballet.

This is the complete, traditional ballet, from the Victorian-style party scene to the dazzling Sugar Plum Fairy, based on the romanticist E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and the Marius Petipa classic.

Alternating Sugar Plum Fairies and Snow Queens

This year's production will feature alternating Sugar Plum Fairies--Lilly Olvera, a senior at New West Charter; and Jasmine Harrison, a senior at Notre Dame Academy High School. Lilly is also dancing the role of the Dew Drop Fairy.

Alternating in the role of the Snow Queen are Kalea Harrison, a senior at Notre Dame Academy High School; and Catia Boucher, a sophomore at Santa Monica High School.

Resident Young Male Dancers

The 2022 production also showcases several elite male cast members from Westside School of Ballet's Boys Division. Sawyer Jordan and Dylan Weinstein share the stage in the newly re-choreographed Russian dance, showcasing their Olympic-level athleticism with high jumps and perfected ballet technique. Sawyer shares the role of the iconic leaping Toy Soldier with newcomer to Westside, Evan Hull.

Sawyer and Dylan are sophomores at Santa Monica High School, while Evan is an eighth-grader at Sage Oak Charter in San Bernardino.

Abbreviated Performances for Elementary School Students

Sawyer Jordan and Dylan Weinstein will be performing the Sugar Plum Cavalier in the Nutcracker Suite, which is an abbreviated version of the ballet Westside performs in a private presentation for approximately 1,000 elementary grade students in the Santa Monica-Malibu and the Los Angeles Unified School districts. Children will hear a narrated version of The Nutcracker story put to excerpts from the ballet followed by Q&A with the dancers. Performance dates for the Nutcracker Suite are at 11am on Wednesday, Nov. 30, and Friday, Dec. 2.

Guest Principals

Westside Ballet To Present THE NUTCRACKER This Holiday Season
Maté Szentes & Jasmine Harrison rehearse Finale. Photo by Daniel Chiswick.

Professional dancer Maté Szentes will perform the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy's Cavalier. Mr. Szentes began training at age 6 in Budapest, Hungary. He attended the Hungarian Dance Academy and North Carolina Dance Theater on full scholarships. After graduating, he joined the Hungarian National Ballet and danced corps de ballet and soloist parts for three years. In 2012, he went to California and joined the Sacramento Ballet. Mr. Szentes relocated to the East Coast in 2015 to join the Richmond Ballet.

He danced several of George Balanchine's works and worked alongside Ma Cong, Val Caniparoli, Mariana Oliveira, Melissa Barak, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, and others. He's a permanent guest lead dancer with American Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Project OC, and Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet and was selected for the National Choreographers Initiative in 2016 and 2018. Since 2016, he's choreographed in Virginia, California, and New Mexico. Since 2016, Mr. Szentes has also been choreographing and had his original works showcased in Virginia, California and New Mexico.

Westside Ballet's Resident Guest Artist of 10 years, Evan Swenson, will reprise the principal role of the Snow Queen's Cavalier, as well as the Arabian pas de deux. A native of central California, Mr. Swenson was accepted to the Houston Ballet Academy on full scholarship at age 17. In 2004, he joined Atlanta Ballet where he performed many soloist and principal roles until moving to New York City in 2007. He has worked with several SoCal companies such as Helios Dance Theater, Barak Ballet, Clairobscur, Backhaus Dance, Inland Pacific Ballet, and as a guest artist at several studio companies throughout the state. From 2011-2019 he coached and toured with Long Beach Ballet, assisting with their Ambassadors to China summer program.

A third guest principal, Jack Virga Hall, will alternate with Mr Swenson in the Arabian pas de deux. Mr. Hall is co-director of Ohana Dance and an ABT-certified teacher based out of Los Angeles. Working for an entertainment company throughout high school, he decided to continue his education with the California Institute of the Arts. His studies focused on dance and music, introducing him to the director of Ken Dance Company, the first professional company he toured with. Mr. Hall currently tours internationally with Lula Washington Dance Theatre's modern company, Pony Box Dance Theatre's contemporary company, and Ballet D' Hommes, a classical ballet all male pointe company.

Grace and Grit

Participation in the arts benefits all children, according to Allegra Clegg, the daughter of co-founder Mounsey and owner of the ballet school. Although only a small percentage of students at Westside go on to become professional ballet dancers, "but what it gives them, I always say, is grace and grit," she says.

Ballet teaches discipline and the ability to work with others, skills that are needed in all fields, according to Clegg. She describes Westside as "a safe, lovely, good environment where kids will learn good values. That sense of safety is important because "some kids have amazing families, but some kids don't," Clegg notes.

Because of the benefits of ballet, Clegg says Westside doesn't want to close its doors on any child no matter their family's financial situation. Westside not only provides scholarships but also brings kids from Hollywood and Greater LA to the school for special introductory classes and workshops.

Community Outreach Preview Performance

Westside Ballet will open its doors on Friday, Dec. 2 for a 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 and Hollywood.

Past Productions

Many professional dancers have made their stage debuts in the Westside Ballet of Santa Monica's Nutcracker over the past five decades, including Monique Meunier (NYCB, ABT); Anna Liceica (ABT); Joy Womack (Bolshoi Ballet, Kremlin Ballet Theater); Martine Harley (Houston Ballet); Melissa Barak (NYCB, Los Angeles Ballet, Barak Ballet); Andrew Veyette and Samuel Melnikov (NYCB).

Among the newest are: Adrian Blake Mitchell (Mikhailovsky Theatre); Shelby Tzung (National Ballet of Canada); Lucia Connolly (Joffrey Ballet); Molly Novak (Semperoper Ballett, Boston Ballet); Severina Wong (Ballet West); Giorgia Martelloni-Zabriskie (Dance Theater of Harlem); Sarah Hurty (Ballet Omaha); and Lyrica Brielle Blankfein Woodruff (Broadway's Anastasia).

Sponsors for the Nutcracker

The Nutcracker production is made possible in part by grants from the City of Santa Monica-with past grants from the Rotary Club and a LA County COVID-19 Arts Relief Fund-and from sponsorships from local Santa Monica individuals, businesses, and organizations such as Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute, The Huntley Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Lyft Scooters, Urth Caffe, Morley Builders, and more.

Nutcracker Dancers Receive College Credit for Performing

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. The credits are transferable to any of California's public four-year colleges and universities.

Nutcracker Safety Measures:

Please read about safety measures here: westsideballet.com/nutcracker-safety-measures

The Nutcracker will be performed at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Show dates and times: Saturday, Nov. 26, at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 and 5 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 3, at 1 and 5 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 1 and 5 p.m. All tickets are $50. Tickets may be purchased online at westsideballet.com/NutTix or by phone (additional fees apply) at (800) 595 - 4849 (4TIX).

Photography: (1) Jasmine Harrison by Todd Lechtick; (2) Maté Szentes & Jasmine Harrison by Daniel Chiswick.




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