The land of suites

It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, creatures were stirring, especially a villainous mouse. But have no fear, the nutcracker prince is here to save the girl from the Mouse King and to take her away to lands filled with snow and Sugar Plum fairies.

Photo by Robert Yeager - Courtesy of the Alliance for the Arts
Photo by Robert Yeager – Courtesy of the Alliance for the Arts

The time has arrived for the Pacific Festival Ballet’s 22nd Annual “The Nutcracker” performances at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Dec. 19-20 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Pacific Festival Ballet’s performances include dancers from the California Dance Theater and features two principal ballet dancers from The New York City Ballet, Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia. PFB also brings in the Kalinin Russian Dance Troupe for an authentic portrayal of the Russian folk dance. According to the PFB Facebook page, “Alexander Kalinin is recognized as one of the premier Russian Dance choreographers in the world.”

Tiler Peck, a native Californian, has been a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet since 2009,  according to her profile on the NYC Ballet’s website. Gonzalo Garcia, who originates from Spain, joined the NYC Ballet after being invited to perform “Ballo della Regina.”

Both highly accomplished dancers come from ballet companies that have helped bring “The Nutcracker” to the United States.

According to The Nutcracker website, the San Francisco Ballet, where Garcia was a principal dancer in 2002, was the first to perform the ballet in the U.S. However, The New York City Ballet, where both Garcia and Peck are currently principal dancers, helped  “The Nutcracker” take off after it became a hit in New York City.

Carrie Barnett, Development Director for Pacific Festival Ballet, said what sets PFB apart from other portrayals of “The Nutcracker” are their costumes, dancers and the snow that falls on the audience during the performance.

“It makes for a really fun and memorable performance,” Barnett said.

Barnett also said “The Nutcracker” is “the holiday tradition you can’t beat,” which is why the Civic Arts Plaza’s Alliance for the Arts tries to help children through the Kids in the Arts program to attend “The Nutcracker” who may not have the means to experience it.

Cara Cohen, Membership Director for Alliance of the Arts, said Kids in the Arts is “an opportunity for children to come to see live theatre who’ve never experienced live theatre before.”

Alliance for the Arts is a non-profit sector of the Civic Arts Plaza. They provide community grants to local performances, as well as the Kids in the Arts program, with the help of the Angels of the Alliance, who Cohen said are essential to their fundraising.

California Lutheran University is a big donator of the alliance, who’s founding chair was Cal Lutheran’s second president, Raymond M. Olson.

Lynda Fulford, Associate Vice President for University Relations, said in an email interview, “CLU has always been a leader in the arts – academically for our students and culturally for the community. ”

“By supporting the visual and performing arts and artists in the community, it helps to strengthen Cal Lutheran’s cultural offerings and services to the students and the community,” Fulford said.

Both the Alliance for the Arts and Cal Lutheran strive to bring accessibility of the arts to the community. Both the Kids in the Arts program and Kingsmen Shakespeare Company provide supplemented performances or workshops to various schools in the Conejo Valley area.

“We kind of expose them and bring them to that world of theatre” Barnett said. “We have students that are privileged enough to be ballerinas and to dance, but then they get to dance for these other students and they can connect to them.”

According to Barnett, they have children as young as five years old in the California Dance Theater performing “The Nutcracker,” and she believes it could be an inspiration for some of the children watching the ballet to want to be dancers too.

“It’s something that they really haven’t seen before. ‘The Nutcracker’ is different than musical theatre or plays they usually have seen, it’s a different artistic expression,” Cohen said.

With “The Nutcracker” you get a battle, a love story of the prince and princess, as well as different lands and creatures created by the imagination of a child on a Christmas Eve’s night.

“[Pacific Festival Ballet’s] ‘The Nutcracker’ is such a really fun performance. The costumes are beautiful, the music is classical, the dancing is just top-notch,” Barnett said.

“The Nutcracker” has been performed in many different variations making each performance unique. Though the tale focuses on children and toys, for Barnett “The Nutcracker” can be enjoyed by all during the Christmas season.

For more information about Pacific Festival Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” visit the Civic Arts Plaza website. Tickets are available at the Thousand Oaks Civic Art Plaza’s box office or online at Ticketmaster.

Sarah Hernandez
Staff Writer
Published December 9th, 2015