10 Palisadian Dancers Set to Perform in Westside Ballet’s 2022 “Nutcracker”
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
The holiday season would not be complete without performances of a most beloved ballet.
In 2022, Westside Ballet will host its 49th rendition of “The Nutcracker” at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, with a two-weekend run featuring 10 dancers who live or go to school in Pacific Palisades.
“The longest-running ‘Nutcracker’ production in SoCal returns beginning Thanksgiving weekend for eight performances at Broad Stage in Santa Monica,” according to a press release from Westside Ballet. “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.”
Westside’s production, which is taking place for the ninth year at Broad Stage, will feature more than 85 dancers, 225 costumes and four “lavishly designed” scenes.
Dancers with ties to the Palisades are Ava Bakhshandehpour, Elise DuFour, Evie Tontonoz, Zoya Abyzov, Addison Russell, Isabel Hedit, Maivi Mugnier, Laurel O’Donnell, Kaia Sappington and Valentina Finci.
Tontonoz is performing in “The Nutcracker” for the second year, taking on the role of Mouse/Angel. She shared that her earliest memory of watching the ballet was when she was 4 years old.
“I bought my first nutcracker at the intermission of a Westside performance,” the now 11-year-old shared. “I loved seeing all of the dancers in their beautiful costumes.”
Bakhshandehpour, a sophomore at Marlborough School, shared that heading into her second year of performing in “The Nutcracker,” she plans to bring something “new and special.”
“One of the most fun parts about doing ‘The Nutcracker’ is that every year I can bring something new and special to the ballet as my technique and artistry improve,” she shared. “It is a classic that never gets old, and performing it always puts me in the holiday spirit.”
Palisades Charter Elementary School fourth-grader O’Donnell will take on the role of Red Soldier.
“I like the challenge of improving my ballet technique through learning the dances in ‘The Nutcracker,’” she shared. “Learning to dance with a prop has been a fun new challenge this year.”
“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,” Producer and Westside Board President Judith Meister said in a statement. “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 Nutcracker,” a two-act ballet with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky dates back to the 1890s. It has gained “enormous popularity” since the 1960s, most often performed during the holiday season.
Westside Ballet will host performances on November 26 and 27, as well as December 3 and 4, at The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, located at 1310 11th Street. Each day will feature two performances at 1 and 5 p.m.
“This is the complete, traditional ballet, from the Victorian-style party scene to the dazzling Sugar Plum Fairy,” the statement shared about the performances, “based on the romanticist E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ and the Marius Petipa classic.”
For more information, including to purchase tickets, visit westsideballet.com/NutTix.
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