The Nutcracker at Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre

Year after year audiences flock to see a nearby performance of Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’. Why? One word: tradition. That’s what ‘The Nutcracker’ means to Robert Kelley, the co-executive artistic director of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre. Sitting down with Kelley during the intermission of their last dress rehearsal, he explained why tradition is so important in these times. ‘In this environment that our country is in, tradition is even more important.’ Kelley believes that the community can find comfort in returning to something familiar during this time of political unrest. Being consumed by something so moving and glorious as the score and choreography of ‘The Nutcracker’ gives audiences members a brief pause to push those thoughts aside and so it remains a tradition for many through these tough times. There are many reasons to choose Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre’s take on this holiday classic.

The dancers are all chosen by open audition each September and rehearse diligently to make their city proud. Especially impressive were Lily Swan as the Dewdrop Fairy and Flora Chatwin as the Peppermint Candycane. In her full glory, Melody Mennite dazzled as the Sugar Plum Fairy with her Cavalier, Ian Casady. Both are guest artists from the Houston Ballet. It is worth noting that Mennite is originally from Santa Cruz, is an alumni of the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre and has chosen to come back for a number of years to dance in her home town for the holidays. Although the principal dancers did not perform all of their lifts during this dress rehearsal, I now have even more to look forward to during this weekend’s performance.

The other most noticeable achievement of this realization of ‘The Nutcracker’ is the use of music. The SCBT employs a 52 piece professional orchestra, meaning the music moves and breathes with the dancers. Pamela Martin, music director and conductor of the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre Orchestra describes the music for this ballet as ‘A masterpiece of music,’ and that it ‘stands on its own and will continue to do so.’ Witnessing the collaboration between performing artists is such an extraordinary experience and can be the highlight of the Christmas season. Martin assured me that this visual and aural experience is appropriate for all ages and will holds everyone’s attention. Come and enjoy the magic here in town!

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium:

Dec 15, 8pm, Dec 16, 1pm & 4:30pm

Dec 17, 1pm & 4:30pm

Tickets are still available at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium Box Office or online at


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