For nearly 50 years, audiences have been dazzled by Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. For many, the classic ballet is synonymous with the holidays and is a cherished tradition in our community. This year was no exception, as thousands of Santa Barbarans packed into the Arlington Theater to watch this year’s performances.
For those unfamiliar with The Nutcracker, it is a classic ballet that tells the story of a young girl’s dream on Christmas Eve. In her fantasy, she battles giant rats and meets a handsome Nutcracker prince who leads her to The Land of Sweets. The ballet premiered in 1892 at the famed Mariinsky Theatre in Russia and surprisingly was not an immediate success. However, it gained international recognition in 1954 when the great George Balanchine created a new version for his company, the New York City Ballet. Since then, Tchaikovsky’s iconic score has become a staple of the holidays, and The Nutcracker is performed by thousands of ballet companies throughout the world.
Over the years, many SBHS students have appeared in Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s own rendition at the Arlington Theater, and this time around, three of SBHS’s own performed in the show. VADA student Julia Carlander, Donettes co-captain and MAD student Kiyomi Klonowski, and MAD student Ember Reiter. These dancers balanced school work, college applications and countless hours of rehearsing in order to make sure this year’s show was the best it could be.
“It’s so emotional because this has been a part of my life for a really long time so it’s a big deal…if I never get another chance [to perform] it will be really sad because I love it so much and it’s so great,” said senior Julia Carlander of her last time being in the show. A true Nutcracker veteran, this is her tenth year participating in the show as she has been dancing with SBFB since the age of six. Having danced many roles in her time, this year she appeared as a Lilac Maiden and Dream Rat. “I think that everyone should know, specifically about this Nutcracker, that everyone in the cast is really committed to making it the best show ever and we have people ranging from little six year olds– who it’s their first time– to the company who have all trained a lot in ballet, and students from UCSB who are dance majors and they are really phenomenal. We even have professional guest artists from San Francisco Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem, which is an incredible experience and just a really amazing opportunity for us to dance alongside them.” Carlander said of the production.
Fellow dancer Kiyomi Klonowski dazzled audience members with her performance as the Soldier Doll, a role she reprised from last year. “To be honest I don’t really like being a boy or a male but I do love to jump and turn… the leap is definitely my favorite part if I don’t mess it up.” Klonowski said of the dance. Having grown up with SBFB, this marked her tenth year being in the show. “I think it’s crazy… I’ve danced my whole life and I always look forward to Nutcracker every year. I’ve been doing ballet since I was three so it’s something I’ve enjoyed my whole life.”
This is also my 10th year and although I have loved every minute of it, this year was especially exciting as I had the privilege to dance the role of Clara, a dream of mine since childhood. It’s hard to put into words how much this opportunity meant to me especially when I think of the thousands of hours I’ve spent dancing towards this moment.
The Nutcracker at the Arlington is truly a Santa Barbara tradition as community members continue to attend the show year after year. The studio would like to thank each and every one of you who came to this year’s performances and showed your support. It means a lot to know that the SBHS community loves the show as much as we do. If you couldn’t make it this year, look out for next year’s performances as we approach the 50th anniversary!