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A Generational Tradition includes Seven Culver Dancers in 'Nutcracker'

One of few Nutcracker ballets danced to live music, The Santa Monica College Symphony Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky's score

How many children have begged their parents for ballet classes after seeing Clara dance with the Sugarplums in 'The Nutcracker'? In Santa Monica, some of those children may now be bringing their grandchildren. This year marks Westside Ballet's 47th year in performing the holiday classic, which draws dancers from their affiliated school (Westside Ballet School), adult dancers from the community, the company's resident professional guest artists, and welcomes NY City Ballet soloist, Savannah Lowery, to present nine ballet productions, beginning Thanksgiving Weekend.

One of few Nutcracker ballets danced to live music, The Santa Monica College Symphony Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky's score with the artistry of Westside's enchanting costumed dancers.

With over one hundred dancers onstage this season, several will be Culver City residents and students. Solea Donnelly (14), a Freshman at Culver City High, will dance in the Waltz of the Flowers corps de ballet and the Peppermint Candy corps. Culver residents Millie Vargas (11) and Serena Klipfel (11) both will perform the roles of Red Soldier and in the Victorian Holiday Party Scene. Megumi Toyama (11) of El Marino Elementary School, also dances in the Victorian Holiday Party Scene of Act I. Ella Berkey (11) of Linwood E. Howe Elementary will perform as an Angel and a Mouse.

Maya Zeevi (16), a Culver City Resident, has danced at Westside Ballet for over eleven years, and is now preparing to perform in her fourth Nutcracker. This year she is performing the solo/ principal roles of Snow Queen, Dewdrop, and center Spanish. At the educational outreach performance in which the dancers of Westside Ballet perform for students of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, Zeevi will also be performing the coveted lead role of Sugar Plum Fairy.

"What I love about about ballet the most is the fact that it is a rigorous sport that requires artistic expression. I love being able to come to ballet, especially after a bad day. Dancing is a way to let out any emotions that you have, good or bad. Ballet is very technically challenging, but the need to artistically express yourself helps you refine your technique," shares Zeevi.

Isabella Cotrone is a 14 year old Los Angeles native and homeschooled through Inspire Charter to open more time in the day to focus on studying ballet. This is her third season performing with Westside Ballet. In this year's Nutcracker Cotrone will dance the principal solo roles of Snow Queen and Dew Drop Fairy and the exquisite solo of the Arabian Princess.

Reviewed by Lara J Altunian in the LA Dance Chronicle for Nutcracker 2018, Isabelle's Spanish Pas de Deux was especially noted: "Cotrone and Jesswein are perfectly in sync, delivering one of the best performances of the entire ballet as a dynamic duo whose quick turns and lifts showcase variety in Cotrone's range of movement..." And in the same review, her Snow Pas de Deux: "Their light-hearted pas de deux is a whimsy and light-hearted introduction to the upcoming second act. Both are skilful performers whose interlacing duet eclipsed a little bit of Wagner's role within the ballet, but did wonders for the up-and-coming Cotrone whose poise and control was engaging."

When she's not dancing Cotrone says she loves to sing and hopes to perform in Broadway musicals after a career as a professional ballet dancer.

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. 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. 

"This production is known as the most child-friendly production in the region," says Jewels Solheim-Roe, Westside Ballet's Dir. of Community Outreach. "Westside's Nutcracker production is a joyous and magical way to begin the holiday season. This affordable show provides the perfect introduction to ballet for children of all ages, with timeless classical music, beautiful costumes, special effects, and an accessible story. Our pre-professional dancers are complemented by an international star cast of seven guest professional performers to share the World Class Broad Stage for this essential Holiday ballet - proven to be an audience favourite generation after generation. Performances always sell out, so we encourage you to buy early."

2019 Performance Schedule at the Broad Stage:

Saturday Nov 30 @ 1 pm & 5 pm; Sunday Dec 1 @ 1pm & 5 pm;

Friday Dec 6 @ 7pm; Saturday Dec 7 @ 1 pm & 5 pm;

and Sunday Dec 8 @ 1 pm and 5 pm

TICKETS $45. 800-595-4849 (4TIX) or

THE BROAD STAGE, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401


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