Westside Ballet’s “Nutcracker” Is Magical

A scene from “The Nutcracker,” which is being performed at The Broad.
Photo: Todd Lechtick

In the 1975 musical “A Chorus Line,” one of the song’s refrains is “Everything is beautiful at the ballet.”

Watching the Westside Ballet’s presentation of “The Nutcracker” on Friday night, the song echoed back in my mind: everything was beautiful — the venue, the dancing, the costuming, even the snow falling slowly on the stage.

It was also magical to be back in an auditorium, watching the ballet after two years of virtual performances.

“Words cannot describe how elated we are to FINALLY be returning to The Broad Stage with Westside Ballet’s signature production!” wrote Martine Harley, artistic director. “There is truly nothing like sharing the artistry and talent of our beautifully refined dancers with the community. We can’t wait to see you!”

Students share the stage with professional guest artists in this classic ballet –from the Victorian-style party scene to the Kingdom of Sweets, where Tchaikovsky’s sparkling creativity inspires dances of fanciful flowers and splendid fairy queens.

The Westside Ballet’s production preserves “The Nutcracker’s” most treasured traditional characters and scenes: the tree that grows, a firing cannon, and falling snow over a stunning corps de ballet of glittering snowflakes.

The traditional full-length ballet is performed in two acts. The production is a close rendition of George Balanchine’s homage to the original “Nutcracker” danced in 19th-Century Russia.

Westside’s founder Yvonne Mounsey––who created the “Nutcracker” role of Center Spanish during the peak of her career as principal dancer with New York City Ballet––brought the holiday classic to Southern California in 1973.

The performances last Friday were so exquisite and polished, it was interesting to note that some of the participants were performing for the first time in a WB “Nutcracker” production.

Palisades resident Ava Bakhashandehpour performed in the Waltz of the Flowers, which was elegantly beautiful.

She said, “I love moving and making interesting and elegant shapes in ballet. The happiness that dancing brings me is something that can’t be described.”

A Palisades resident, Ava Bakhashandehpour, performs in “The Nutcracker.”

Another Palisades resident, Zoya Abyzov, who danced as one of the red soldiers, said, “I always wanted to dance, and started to do so in London at a young age of 4.” She’s now 10. “I really love dancing at Westside Ballet because it has a disciplined and serious approach.”

This ballet is fun because of the variety of dances and styles. The Arabian Coffee with Kalea Harrison (a junior at Notre Dame High School), partnered with guest artist Evan Swenson (formerly with the Houston Ballet), was sensual and majestic.

The Russian Trepak with Sawyer Jordan and Dylan Weinstein was excellent—it seems like young good male dancers are a rarity, but not at this school, and not in this performance.

Always providing a light touch is Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles—usually the youngest dancers, who are absolutely adorable.

Debuting in the principal role of Sugar Plum Fairy is Daniella Zhou, a former Santa Monica High School student. She danced with Westside Ballet for nine years––until this August, when she was offered a place with the Pre-Professional Division at Miami City Ballet for their 2021/2022 season.

Principal Guest Artist Chasen Greenwood was featured in Dancer Magazine as “one to watch” after completing a nationwide tour as soloist with the State Street Ballet. He trained on full scholarship with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet and Ballet Austin, and began his career performing with Leann Rimes, and in the musical “Casper” (national tour).

Sans an orchestra this year, Covid restrictions also require that dancers and audience members above age 12 show vaccination certificates. Those below the age of 12 or with medical exceptions are required to show a negative PCR test. Masks are required for all audience members and unvaccinated dancers.

This will be Westside Ballet’s eighth year at the Santa Monica College Broad Stage, Wilshire and 11th Street. There are limited performances: Saturday, December 4 at 1 and 5 p.m. and Sunday, December 5 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $50.

1-800-595-4849 (4TIX)


Clara, The Nutcracker, Red and Blue Soldiers, prepare for the Battle Scene, in Westside Ballet’s Nutcracker dress rehearsals. Two Palisades residents include Blue Soldier third from right: Olivia Yu, 9; and the Red Soldier next to the Nutcracker: Zoya Abyzov, 10, a fifth grader at Seven Arrows.

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