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November 30, 2010 > Ballet Petit Delivers Nutcracker Magic

Ballet Petit Delivers Nutcracker Magic

By Emma Victoria G. Blanco

There's a reason that Ballet Petit is presenting its 32nd annual production of "The Nutcracker" this weekend - magic!

It's not the kind of magic that involves waving a wand and presto!, a rabbit comes out of a hat. It's the kind of magic when witnessing something amazing and transforming.

"Many of our students have been in our Nutcracker performances every year since they were three years old," said Darlene Brower, who has taught at Ballet Petit for 24 years. She has helped her student's blossom from three-year-old Twinkle Toes to graceful ballerinas. She said, "I love sharing my love of ballet with my students. Even though classical ballet is very difficult I try to make my classes both educational and fun. I want my students to have a lifetime love of ballet!"

Ballet Petit dancers bring Tchaikovsky's holiday dream ballet to life in four shows performed on December 4 and 5 at Chabot College Center for the Performing Arts. Adding a fourth show (Sunday matinee) "gives our guests another option for enjoying this joyous ballet," enthused Peggy Peabody, Ballet Petit's Artistic Director and the 2008 inductee in the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame for Culture & Arts.

Ballet Petit's Nutcracker is unique because all of the school's students dance in at least one of the four shows. Peabody believes that all dancers are capable of dancing and participating in their productions. Instead of holding auditions, Peabody and her artistic staff conduct a casting selection process. In the early fall, they discuss and look at a number of factors before making decisions: previous year's casting, students' studio and stage performances, and individual work ethics. Ultimately, a "total picture of how [each] dancer works overall" is created.

This year's coveted role of Clara will be shared by two dancers: Marisa Ngbemeneh of Union City and Jenna Thompson of Livermore. The graceful and artistically challenging role of Sugar Plum Fairy will be performed by local teens Kimberly Grovers of Fremont, and Prudence Gordon of Newark. Brower stated, "[One of our Sugar Plum Fairies] has been a student of mine since she was two and a half years old; she is seventeen now. Many of our students dance with us from a young age all the way through high school. Since they are at ballet so often and for so many years I have close relationships with many of them and their families. I love to see them grow into beautiful accomplished dancers."

Ballet Petit endeavors to train their dancers to learn the artistic and technical points of classical ballet, but it does so by providing a positive and nurturing atmosphere where everyone has a place. And they don't go unnoticed. In fact, eleven Ballet Petit dancers have been recruited by Graham Lustig, Artistic Director of the Oakland Ballet Company, to dance at its own upcoming Nutcracker production (December 23 - 25 at Oakland's historic Paramount Theater).

Brower summed it best: "It's a very special part of [the dancers'] life, just like it was a very special part of my life when I was their age. Even though I've been involved one way or another in Nutcracker for over 30 years I never get tired of the music or choreography! It's still magical to me and I love to see that same magic alive in the eyes of our young dancers."

Ballet Petit's The Nutcracker
Saturday, December 4 - Sunday, December 5
2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Chabot College Performing Arts Center
25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward
(510) 324-4988

Admission: $20 adults, $16 children/seniors
Group discounts available for groups of 20 or more

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