The Nutcracker Ballet is a Christmas tradition for many each year and this year they will be able to see the 22nd performance of the Nutcracker Ballet put on by the North County Dance and Performing Arts Foundation. The foundation has been producing the ballet every December for the last 21 years. The ballet will run Thursday, Dec. 6 through Sunday, Dec. 9 at the Templeton Performing Arts Center on the campus of Templeton High School.

The ballet was adapted by Alexandre Dumas Pére’s from E.T.A. Hoffman’s story and set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovksy. The ballet debuted a week before Christmas in 1891 and premiered in western countries in the 1940s and has remained a Christmas tradition.

“It’s a heart-warming story. We try to keep it traditional, [though] we twist it a little,” Nutcracker Director Cheryle Armstrong said.

The ballet tells the story of a young girl named Clara who gets a nutcracker from her Uncle Drosselmeyer on Christmas Eve and is transported to another world in her dreams. This year’s cast includes Kaela Tran as Clara, Jenevieve Crossett as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Billy Cusimano as Drosselmeyer and Samuel Fulk, a guest artist from Sacramento, as the Cavalier. Armstrong said she is excited to have Cusimano in that role this year and she is adapting the character to fit him.

“He’s fantastic,” she said. “He’s very musical and fun.”

Each year, Armstrong said, some of the choreography changes and part of that is due to who is dancing each role. The cast for the 2018 season of The Nutcracker Ballet has a record number of dancers, who come from throughout the entire North County. The cast has nearly 75 people of all ages, quite a few more than past years, North County Dance and Performing Arts Foundation Vice President Cali Domenghini said. Past productions have seen 40 to 50 cast members. What changed it this year, she said, is that the foundation opened up participation to dance students around the county. Main Street Dance owner Jocelyn Willis is one of the production’s choreographers and she has more than 15 dancers in the cast.

“We really wanted to make an effort to reach out to other dance studios in the North County and include them,” Domenghini said, adding that a goal of the foundation is to support the performing arts and dance community in the North County.”

One result of the cast growing so substantially is that fewer dancers will be dancing more than one part, so that the changes between scenes won’t have to be so rushed. Another change to this production is the addition of a new assistant director — Taylor Santero.

“Taylor is also our jazz company director,” Domenghini said. “We’re excited to have her on board. She studied dance at Cal Poly and is pursuing a masters in dance. She brings a lot of experience and knowledge.”

Santero also danced in the role of Mrs. Stahlbaum a few years ago, Domenghini said. “So she’s not new to the production.” She added that the foundation has also hired two costume designers to work on the production this year.

“We’re really making an effort to update our costumes that are 20-plus years old,” she said, adding that the sets and backdrops will also be refreshed for this year’s run of the ballet.

The 2018 Nutcracker Ballet performance dates

  • Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. (open dress rehearsal and student night)
  • Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 8 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 9 at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $29 for adults and $24 for children 12 and younger and seniors 62 and older. For the open dress rehearsal, tickets are $10 with a canned food donation for students and $25 for adults. Tickets may be purchased at NCDPAF.org or by calling 805-316-1833.

Sugar Plum Tea Party

The North County Dance and Performing Arts Foundation will present a Sugar Plum Tea Party on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cantinas on the Park, 1242 Park St. in Paso Robles. General admission is $18, get a VIP upgrade with early admission and photos for an additional $5. Light lunch will be served and it will include crafts and dancing with Clara and the ballerinas. To buy tickets, go to NCDPAF.org.

Heather Young

Heather Young is a freelance writer specializing in travel, wine, food and feel-good stories about people doing good in their communities and world. Find her on Instagram @travelswithheatheryoung