North County Dance & Performing Arts Foundation’s first performance is Thursday, Dec. 1

CENTRAL COAST — For its 26th year, The North County favorite “The Nutcracker” will be performed at the Spanos Theatre on the Cal Poly campus this month. Brought to us by the North County Dance & Performing Arts Foundation (NCDPAF), performances will take place Thursday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. with discounted prices for student night, Friday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. 

Local dancer Jordyn Monteath will be portraying Clara in this year’s performance. Photos by Celebrate Everyday Photography

Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet is a winter classic based on the 1816 short story “The Nutcracker” and “The Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Oddly enough, the original ballet was not the massive success it has turned out to be, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that the ballet started picking up steam. Now, the story of Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the evil Rat Queen, and the magical toymaker Drosselmeyer is a cherished part of many families’ holiday plans. 

The NCDPAF’s yearly production boasts primarily local choreographers and dancers, out of Class Act Dance in Paso Robles. This year, “The Nutcracker” features over 55 dancers, ages 6 and up, who have been strapping on their ballet slippers and rehearsing for their three performances since September. They will be joined on stage by a handful of guest dancers, coming in to perform a few of the principal roles.

“This year, our cast is comprised of mostly all Class Act Dance dancers. The last few years, we’ve had some other studios participating, but this year it’s just us. So that’s pretty exciting,” said NCDPAF Board President Suzi Cusimano.

The Grandmother of the Nutcracker on the Central Coast, as well as the productions artistic director, Cheryle Armstrong, stated that the ballet, though traditional, does have small changes yearly to highlight that particular year’s dancers.

“Every year we try to morph [the choreography] so that it is customized to the actual dancers that are in the cast, but you want to keep a lot of the things the same as well because it is a traditional storyline,” added Armstrong.

Audience members will fall in love with the storyline as Clara’s magical Nutcracker turns into an actual prince, and she journeys from her family’s Christmas Eve party into the Land of Sweets filled with a dancing Sugar Plum Fairy, evil rats and their Queen, and ballet sequences that take her all over the world to explore tasty treats in the North County’s version of this worldwide holiday classic.

For its 26th production, “The Nutcracker” will feature an entirely new battle scene. Directors Armstrong and Kristen McLaughlin (from Bakersfield) brought in Mauro Villanueva of Joffery Ballet to choreograph a brand new battle sequence as well as a scene called The Magic Spell. Villanueva came to the Central Coast From Texas in September to choreograph the dances.

“The new sequence, that was an exciting thing that happened this year,” Armstrong said of Villanueva’s new choreography.

The other choreographers featured in this year’s ballet are Doriana Sanchez, Theresa Comstock, and Molly McKiernan, who join Villanueva.

Local dancer Justin Grapentine (right) will be portraying the Nutcracker Prince alongside guest performer Janai Wilcox as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Photos by Celebrate Everyday Photography

“A notable thing about our Nutcracker is the standards of practice,” stated Cusimano. “Our caliber of dance is held to a high standard. You get a very good, very professional experience at our Nutcracker.”

Another thing that makes the NCDPAF’s version of the magical world of “The Nutcracker” different is that since its start 26 years ago, they have always included narration in their productions. Currently, you can hear the story unfold through the eyes of Clara as she goes on her dance-filled journey. 

Local dancers Jordyn Monteath as Clara and Justin Grapetine as the Nutcracker Prince lead the well-known ballet. With guest performances by Sam Fulk as the magical toymaker Drosselmeyer, Janai Wilcox as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Alyssa Jenkins as the Snow Queen.

“The NCDPAF, it’s our mission to bring the performing arts to the general public and to the community, and we’re so proud to have this production to put out there for the community to come and be a part of and add to the magic of the holiday season,” Cusimano said. “All ages are enchanted by this production, and it has such a big following, and we’re so happy to be able to continue putting that on for the public. We appreciate all the support that we get and everyone who comes to see the show.” 

For ticket information, visit nutcrackertickets.org