Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Santa Monica student to dance Clara role In Westside Ballet's "The Nutcracker" at the Broad Stage after two year drought

Student dancer Nadia Hofer shares the stage with homegrown protégé Daniel Zhou, returning in her Sugar Plum debut

Westside Ballet's presentation of The Nutcracker has been a beloved Los Angeles classic since 1973, providing the perfect opportunity to introduce children to classical music and dance, and in so doing, showcasing the value of the performance arts––a point considered more poignant than ever after the collective nearly two-year drought of live entertainment and arts events throughout the pandemic. The whole family can expect to be entranced once more by the production's lavish scenes and costumes, involving world-class professional dancers performing alongside pre-professional and student performers.

Nadia Hofer, 13, an eighth grader at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, has been dancing with Westside Ballet of Santa Monica since she was 7. She has been cast in the coveted role of Clara.

"I think it's really important for dancers to have confidence in themselves and their abilities, while still knowing that each dancer has something they need to work on," says Hofer. "Dancers must have strong focus during class and rehearsal as well as a lot of persistence, determination and the ability to memorize steps and pick up counts. To ensure I stay strong and fit enough to perform and dance such long hours, I add in practice and stretching at home. I also work my feet at home."

The 2021 production, which opens Nov. 27 and will have a two-weekend run, also features over 40 other young dancers who reside or go to school in Santa Monica. (The cast includes a total of 67 pre-professional student dancers from the local area, some driving as far as Calabasas for a demanding weekly rehearsal and class schedule).

The students will be sharing the stage with professional dancers, such as Principal Guest Artist Chasen Greenwood, who is accompanying the Sugar Plum Fairy (Santa Monica native Daniella Zhou in her professional debut) as her Cavalier. Greenwood was featured in Dancer Magazine as "one to watch" after completing a nationwide tour as a soloist with State Street Ballet.

Zhou, the most recent protégé of Artistic Director Martine Harley's artistic team and a former santa monica high school student, danced with Westside Ballet for 9 years––until this August, when she was offered a place with the Pre-Professional Division at Miami City Ballet for their 2021/2022 season.

"Daniella brings incredible variety and distinctive traits to whatever she dances. Her composure, grace, dedication, and humility––both on and off stage––are quite rare," " shares Harley. "We are absolutely elated to have Daniella make her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy in our 2021 return-to-the-stage Nutcracker production, which promises to highlight Daniella's gorgeous style in our two-weekend run."

This year's production marks Westside's return to the live stage for the first time in two years. During the COVID-19 hiatus in 2020, the company created a black box theater abbreviated virtual performance.

"We have survived –– now it's time to thrive!" says Allegra Clegg, Westside School of Ballet's studio owner and daughter of co-founder Yvonne Mounsey. "To be sure, the epidemic has disrupted the way the performing arts field has thought about dance. Like other nonprofit performing arts organizations, Westside Ballet had to embrace the concept of producing dance digitally to keep ballet alive in our community and to share with those who enjoy and support the art form. We have been so grateful to all the individual and foundational donors that were able to come forward in unprecedented ways to support our dance company and increase their giving through our Crisis Relief Campaign."

"This year, to encourage continued support and to celebrate our return to The Broad Stage, on Giving Tuesday, November 30th, the performance company will release rehearsal footage previews on our social media channels," shares Clegg.

The Nutcracker production is made possible in part by grants from Los Angeles County, the City of Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades Woman's Club –– and sponsorships from local Santa Monica individuals, businesses, and organizations such as Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute, The Huntley Hotel, Lyft Scooters, Urth Caffe, Morley Builders, and more. "Westside Ballet is extremely grateful for this continued support of the arts in Santa Monica. Engaging with the community is a priority for Westside," states Clegg.

Covid vaccine and testing guidelines shall be enforced for both dancers and audiences, following both Los Angeles County and Santa Monica College's health and Covid protocols. Dancers and audience members above age 12 will be required to show vaccination certificates. Those below the age of 12 or with medical exceptions, will be required to show a negative PCR test. Masks will be required for all audience members and unvaccinated dancers.

"The Nutcracker" will be performed at The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Show dates and times are Saturday, Nov. 27 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m .; Sunday, Nov. 28 at 1 p.m .; Saturday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m .; and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. All tickets are $50. Tickets may be purchased online at or by phone (additional fees apply) at (800) 595 – 4849 (4TIX). For more information, visit


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