On Wednesday morning behind the curtains of COC’s performing arts center, there was a rush of excitement and anticipation. Stage crews tested their mics and put the final touches in place. Parent volunteers smoothed people’s costumes out and dancers went over their routines for one last time; all in preparation of Santa Clarita Ballet’s 25th anniversary outreach performance of The Nutcracker. Eventually everything was ready and all anyone could do was wait until the curtains pulled back and the music started. It was these few tense moments that seemed to really affect people. Some hopped up and down, anxious for the show to start, while others whispered enthusiastically to the people around them. But, eventually the curtains pulled back, and all talking instantly came to a stop.
The Nutcracker ballet tells the story of Marie, a young girl who goes on a magical Christmas adventure after the wooden Nutcracker her Uncle Drosselmeyer gives her comes to life. The beloved two-act ballet first premiered in Moscow a week before Christmas in 1892. However, it did not become truly popular until it premiered in the United States in the 1940s. From that point on, it became a holiday classic in the U.S. and around the world. Ballet studios large and small started performing it during the Christmas season. Now, about 80 years later, there are countless ballets, movies, and books depicting the story. Each adaptation is different; some are more modern, some have different names for the characters, and some even change aspects of the story. But they all embody the wonder that surrounds the Christmas season.
Santa Clarita Ballet takes a more classical approach to The Nutcracker. Their performances showcase the beauty and grace of classical ballet and stay as true as possible to the original storyline. Those as SCB believe in the importance of teaching students about classical arts, which is why they do their annual Nutcracker “Outreach” program. More formally called “Arts in the Classroom: Classical Dance,” their “Outreach” program allows elementary school students from the Newhall school district and some homeschool groups to learn about classical dance and the original Nutcracker story in their classrooms. They then are given a chance to see it performed at the COC theater. This program was first established in December of 2001, and has been a benefit to hundreds of children ever since. In the pamphlet for the show, it affirms, “The Outreach program has been praised by community, educational, and civic leadership for its unique cultural contribution to arts education and literacy among elementary students in the Santa Clarita Valley.” Santa Clarita Ballet does two Nutcracker outreach shows the week leading up to the public performances.
There are dozens of amazing characters that are a part of Santa Clarita Ballet’s Nutcracker performance. Some roles are filled by professional dancers who come from dance companies around the world. However, most of the roles are filled by Santa Clarita Ballet Academy’s own students. Dancers can be a part of Nutcracker as young as three or four years old as little mice in the first act. Each year, the roles grow in complexity as the dancers grow in their skills. After mice, the roles in the Nutcracker include gumdrops, tree angels, soldiers, party girls, maids, rats, snow corps, and many more, including more complex roles, such as rat king, sugar plum fairy, snow queen, and of course, Marie and the Nutcracker. All roles play an important and essential part in the show, and help the students grow in their performance abilities.
Santa Clarita Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker has become a community tradition that remains true and timeless no matter how much the world around it changes. For 25 years, it has brought joy to both young and old during the holiday season. Congratulations to Santa Clarita Ballet 25 years of magical performances!