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November 21, 2006 > A season for ballet

A season for ballet

by Arathi Satish

Watching a performance of the Nutcracker has become a holiday rite of passage. Its universal appeal encourages performances by a plethora of production companies at a variety of venues so theatergoers have many choices of styles and adaptations of the ballet based on “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” written by E.T.A. Hoffman.

Nutcracker mania began when the legendary choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose music for this ballet in 1891. The ballet was presented the next year at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia. In the 1930’s it made its appearance in Western Europe and finally arrived in America in the 1940’s.

The story centers around a German girl Clara Stahlbaum who, with her brother Fritz can hardly wait for guests to arrive on Christmas Eve. As the party begins at the beautifully decorated Stahlbaum house, godfather Drosselmeyer, a toy maker and magician arrives and presents two life-sized dolls that cavort around the room. He gives Clara a wooden nutcracker shaped like a little man, with a white cotton beard and happy smile.

Clara loves her toy, but an envious Fritz, damages the gift. Drosselmeyer immediately repairs him and as the party ends, guests depart and the family retires for the evening. Clara sneaks back to the Christmas tree to check on her precious gift and falls asleep with him in her arms. Amazing things are about to happen.

An army of toys, led by the nutcracker, comes to life while an opposing force of mice is battles for supremacy. Clara is surrounded by the action and although initially outmaneuvered, the toys, with Clara’s help, eventually triumph. The Nutcracker turns into a handsome Prince and takes Clara to his kingdom – the Land of Sweets. Here the royal couple is entertained until they retire in a magic sleigh.

Christmas morning, Clara wakes up with her beloved Nutcracker next to her. Was it all a dream?

Many in the area may have already seen Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker performed on November 3 at Chabot College in Hayward. But opportunities to see this wonderful holiday classic are still available on the local scene.

The Fremont Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor David Sloss, along with Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy are teaming up once again to perform Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. The long association between these two organizations resulted in the performance of Fremont’s first full-length Nutcracker production last year. Due to the sold out success of last year, more shows have been added this year. The mayor and members of the city council who showed support last year by appearing on stage in full costume during the first act of Nutcracker are rumored to be practicing their dance steps for another appearance this year!

Fremont Symphony Executive Director Eman Isadiar said, “We will do our best to bring these art forms to the community. It also helps to have a world-class choreographer in town such as Yoko Young.” As a special bonus for children after each matinee show, a Sugar Plum Party will be held, where they can meet costumed dancers and symphony musicians while enjoying special holiday treats.

It is magic, just magic. That describes the twenty-eight years of Ballet Petit's annual "Nutcracker" ballet production. That a local dancer could grow up and develop a school of classical ballet and a tradition of performance that surpasses all the professional dance companies in the Bay Area is magic. That music fills a darkened theatre, a curtain lifts and the scene becomes a Victorian fantasy of snowflakes, a handsome cavalier, a Sugar Plum Queen and a child's love for a toy, is magic.

Fremont Symphony Orchestra and Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy’s Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet

Friday, December 1
7 p.m.

Saturday, December 2
2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Sunday, December 3
2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Ohlone College, Smith Center
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
 (510) 794-1659

Adults: $42, $37, children $20

Ballet Petit’s Nutcracker

Saturday, December 2
2:00 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Sunday, December 3
7 p.m.

Chabot College Theatre of Performing Arts
25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward
(510) 324-4988

Adults $18, children (3-12) and seniors $14
Group discounts available.

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