For 47 years, Westside Ballet has presented “The Nutcracker.” This year a different version will keep the tradition alive – but in slightly a different way.
Westside Ballet’s production of “Kingdom of the Sweets” will be filmed from The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Six high school seniors in Westside Ballet’s company of talented pre-professional dancers will perform excerpts from ‘The Nutcracker’ to an empty theater, maintaining social distance and wearing masks. The filmed performances will later be showcased on Vimeo, planned for sometime mid-December, to be determined by local authorities and abiding all health and safety parameters set by Los Angeles County.
Benefiting Westside Ballet’s Crisis Relief Fund, the pre-professional ballet company plans to release from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Giving Tuesday, December 1, archival “Nutcracker” footage from past productions and previously recorded dress rehearsals of selected solo roles performed by six high school seniors (Dance at Vimeo )
This year Santa Monica Canyon resident and senior Stella Grynberg (17) will be performing the role the Dew Drop Fairy. “This unconventional performance of The Nutcracker illustrates my burning passion and love for ballet that I would not let die down during this pandemic,” said Grynberg, a senior at Archer School for Girls. “With the grit I have gained from 11 years of ballet training, I refused to stop dancing during the lockdown. –And dancing in a mask in second-nature, now.”
She said when the lockdown began last March, “I ordered a square of Marley floor, pushed the living room couch into the hallway, and created my own studio.
Grynberg said her home wasn’t perfect for dancing because the floor was slippery, the barre that had been put up, broke and every so often her leg would hit a wall.
“But, when I heard the piano music through the zoom screen, I felt a feeling of normality and reassurance: a very rare yet essential feeling,” she said. “As I became accustomed to my new dance studio and way of life, I found many benefits out of the situation. I was able to focus on myself and tailor my classes to what I needed to improve on.
“I would stay in the living room for hours repeating the same turn over and over again until I mastered it. I became in-tune with my placement, I focused on improving my technique, and, without the luxury of a sprung floor or sturdy barre, I grew stronger,” She said.
Grynberg has been at Westside Ballet since she was six years old and it will be her 10th Nutcracker performance. “When I was young, I would watch the older girls from behind the wing as they danced on pointe, as they transformed into snowflakes, and as the sugar plum fairy welcomed the land of the sweets,” she said. “I watched in awe and hoped one day I too would be there.”
One of her favorite subjects is math and she likes scientific research. “This summer I did a program called SHINE, Summer High School Intensive in Next-Generation Engineering and worked under Professor Richard Roberts Chemical Engineering Lab at USC,” she said. “I was able to participate in COVID-19 research. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience.”
But dance has been essential in her growth. “The Nutcracker defines Westside Ballet’s tight-knit community for me. When the finale music turns on, immediately every girl jumps up and playfully yet chaotically runs across the studio, mimicking every role they have ever performed,” she said. When I hear the Chinese or peppermint music streaming from the other studio, I am instantly brought back to the little girl I once was. For that reason, every dancer at Westside is connected through the power of the Nutcracker.”
a Westside’s Nutcracker “Winter Wonderland” Market will be constructed outside the Westside Ballet Studios at 1709 Stewart St. in Santa Monica on November 28 and 29, and December 5 and 6 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. There will be a variety of gifts that include nutcrackers of all sizes and shapes, ornaments and puzzles. Items will also be available online Nutcracker.
CRISIS RELIEF FUND
Donors have already given an astounding $123, 000 towards the goal of $150,000. Westside is looking to engage 1500 Angels to Save Westside School of Ballet. This immense fundraising effort serves to keep the school and studios open while operating with a skeleton staff. Currently, there are limited online offerings with open air and outside classes running at 25 percent occupancy.
All donations to the fund will go directly to sustaining Westside Ballet’s dancers, artistic and support staff. Visit: www.westsideballet.com
“There is no doubt that we have all been challenged throughout 2020,” said Westside’s Artistic Director Martine Harley. “One thing is certain: dancers will always find a way to dance. They refuse to allow anything to prevent them from expressing themselves physically and emotionally through their music and movement. And Westside Ballet is committed to finding a way to share the beauty and joy of dance, until our resilience is rewarded and when we can perform again for audiences… Indeed, there will be a Nutcracker this year –– and that in itself is reason to celebrate!”