Westside Ballet’s Nutcracker Features Palisades Dancers

Pacific Palisades residents perform in Westside Ballet’s 50th production of the Nutcracker. Top row: (left to right) Olivia Yu, Addison Russell, Elise Dufour (Crystal Bells), Zoya Abyzov ( Side Russian), Lyla Brugger (Center Candy Cane) and Mila Bakhshandehpour (Side Russian); Middle row (left to right) Laurel O’Donnell (Polichinelle), Kaia Sappington (Snow Fairy), Clara Ditter (Party Girl), Valentina Finci (Polichinelle), Izzy Heidt (Polichinelle) and Inès Macpherson (Side Angel); Bottom row: Blue Soldiers include Zoe Nakamura, Carlin McCaffrey and Imogen Marble.


The Westside Ballet of Santa Monica opened its 50th-anniversary of The Nutcracker, over Thanksgiving weekend to sellout performances.

The show, which features special guest stars Tiler Peck, Lucia Connolly and Lyrica Woodruff as the Sugar Plum Fairy, has also sold out all four performances for next weekend, December 2 and 3, too.

To accommodate those disappointed who were not able to get tickets, Westside will offer a free Vimeo link for the community so they can watch last Saturday’s performance at home.  Please email publicity@westsideballetcompany.org for the link.

Zoe Nakamura, 9, who attends Palisades Elementary, performed in her first production, as a Blue Soldier. Ultimately, “I hope to dance the part of Sugar Plum Fairy,” she said.

Carlin McCaffrey, 9, said that “When I went to see Westside’s Ballet for the first time, my parents bought a huge blue soldier nutcracker. We bring it out every Christmas. Now it’s my first time performing in the show, and I am a blue soldier.”


Lyrica Woodruff partnered with Mate Szentes.

Lyrica Woodruff, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, started dancing with Westside when she was five years old. At 14, Lyrica was invited to train year-round at the School of American Ballet in New York City.

When she graduated, she received the prestigious Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise. She was featured in Susan Stroman’s musical, Little Dancer, which premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Woodruff played the featured role of Juliet in Christopher Gattelli’s musical, In Your Arms, and went on to play Susan the Silent in the Off-Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, for which she won the Chita Rivera Award (formerly known as the Astaire Award) for Outstanding Female Dancer in an Off-Broadway Show. Most recently, she was Odette and Olga Romanov in Anastasia on Broadway.



Lucia Connolly is performing in the “Nutcracker.”

Lucia Connolly, who lived in Pacific Palisades on Radcliffe Avenue, attending local schools, began her training when she was five with Westside School of Ballet under the direction of Yvonne Mounsey.

In 2014, she joined The School of American Ballet and performed works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Dana Genshaft.

She graduated from The School of American Ballet two years later and joined the Joffrey Ballet.

Since joining the Joffrey, Connolly has originated roles in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker, John Neumier’s Orphee and Euridice, Alexander Ekman’s Joy, Cathy Marston’s Heimat, Yuri Possokov’s Anna Karenina, Nicolas Blanc’s Beyond the Shore and Chanel Dasilva’s Colorem.

Connolly also has spent four seasons dancing with Barack Ballet.


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