Long Beach Ballet’s Seasonal Sensation


Long Beach Ballet

Clara and her nutcracker

Bella Kim, Co-Editor

Every December at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, a girl named Clara and her nutcracker doll go on a magical holiday adventure through mystical lands of snow, flowers and sweets. If this classic story sounds familiar, it is because it is the well known Christmas performance of “The Nutcracker.” Long Beach Ballet’s annual production of the full-length ballet “The Nutcracker” features ballet students of all ages, colorful sets and costumes, endless special effects and even a real horse.

Almost every ballet studio performs “The Nutcracker,” but none can compete with Long Beach Ballet’s production, which includes a live orchestra and a cast of over 250 dancers. The director, David Wilcox, describes “The Nutcracker” as “one of the prettiest pictures ever created for our enjoyment.”

“The Nutcracker” is the story of a girl named Clara whose toy nutcracker doll comes to life on Christmas Eve night. The Nutcracker, who was a Christmas present given to Clara by her Uncle Drosselmeyer, is wounded in a battle against giant mice and transforms into a prince. They pass through lands of snow and angels as the prince takes Clara to the enchanted kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy. She rewards Clara for killing the Mouse King and saving the prince by having members of her court dance for her. In the end, Clara returns home, wondering if it has all been a dream. 

For many families, watching or dancing in “The Nutcracker” is a long-held tradition. Some students have danced in it every year since they were three years old. In 2019, Long Beach Ballet celebrated its 37th year of Nutcracker performances. Ballet Mistress (rehearsal director) Shani Englert has been a part of “The Nutcracker” for all 37 years. “It has been my joy and privilege to do what I love as my job. My passion for the artform and my desire to teach young people are combined in the position I have at Long Beach Ballet.”

In 2018, Long Beach Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” was voted the “Best-Loved Nutcracker in the Nation” by a Goldstar audience survey. But what makes this version of the Christmas ballet so special? McAuliffe Middle School’s orchestra and band director, Mr. Fontaine, saw the ballet in December of 2019. He described it as “a transformative experience” and went on to say, “It was an intersection of art, music, athletics, theatre, and education… all in one package.” The quality of dancing is at a professional level, and guest principal dancers, some who are Long Beach Ballet alumni, are brought in to fill some of the lead roles. 

Englert continued, “…the production features the beautifully trained and well-rehearsed students of Long Beach Ballet Academy. David Wilcox’s school production has been mistaken for a professional company many times.” Dazzling costumes and sets bring the stage to life. Special effects include exploding cannons, flying sleighs and a real Arabian horse named Rebel, who has starred in many Long Beach Ballet performances. Whether you love ballets or have never seen one in your life, Long Beach Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is a spectacular show that never disappoints. 

“The Nutcracker” at the Terrace Theater is sure to entertain. The Los Angeles Times declared, “Crammed with special effects, the familiar Long Beach Ballet version of ‘The Nutcracker’ has nearly everything money can buy. For opulent, family-oriented, entertainment — seek no further.” With two acts full of music, dancing and excitement, this performance will have you at the edge of your seat from the first scene all the way to the curtain call. 

The “Russian doll” dancers are a crowd favorite, and they engage the audience until the whole theater is clapping and cheering on their feet. Beautiful dancing snowflakes, angels and Arabian dancers awe the audience with their grace. Mr. Fontaine commented, “The ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and the ‘Spanish Dance’ were so exciting and inspiring that I could NOT sit still.”

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Nutcracker performances will have to be adapted for the safety of the dancers, faculty and audience. Dancers will wear masks and there will not be a live audience. As the Terrace Theater is not available, dances will be filmed at the La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts and put together in a recording available for people to watch. Despite many obstacles, Long Beach Ballet will continue to share the beauty of dance and the story of “The Nutcracker.” 

Needless to say, the action-packed Long Beach Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” is the star of the season. Falling asleep at ballets is now a thing of the past because this performance will keep your eyes glued to the stage until the curtain falls on the last bow.