Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Sugar Plum Dreams

Nutcracker1Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre celebrates 30 years and its 11th annual production of ‘The Nutcracker’

While watching Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre perform “The Nutcracker” for the first time at 9 years old, Melody Mennite knew it was something she had to be a part of. Twenty years later, the Santa Cruz native and professional ballerina considers “The Nutcracker” an old friend.

“I really enjoy that it’s the only thing in my career that I get to revisit every year,” says Mennite. “For the most part, the story, the music, and the overall feeling, you know, the magic of it doesn’t change.”

From her time training at the SCBT studio, to her current role as a Houston Ballet principal dancer, Mennite has climbed the ranks within the production—from dancing at age 10 as Clara, to performing this month as the Sugar Plum Fairy. This will be the seventh year that Mennite returns to Santa Cruz from Texas to guest dance in SCBT’s annual production.

In its 11th year, “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 20-22 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Keeping with tradition, the production stars a cast of students from the SCBT studio, professional guest dancers, and a 49-piece live orchestra.

“The orchestra is one thing that sets us apart from most ‘Nutcrackers,’” explains Robert Kelley, co-executive artistic director for SCBT. “In this economic climate very few ballet companies, certainly the size of ours, have the revenue to hire this kind of orchestra.”

For more than a decade, however, a union orchestra of 49 musicians or more has been the standard for SCBT. Administrators, dancers and musicians have all described the orchestra as a “living, breathing entity” because it never performs the same way twice, and it sets the tone (literally and metaphorically) for the entire performance.

“People hear ‘The Nutcracker’ so much in a popular culture context, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s a work of genius,” says Pamela Martin, SCBT orchestra conductor. “There’s spontaneity to the orchestra—it’s a totally different experience.”

Mennite agrees that the unpredictability of the orchestra is what makes dancing to live music so exciting. More importantly, Mennite sees the combination of live music, live dance, and traditional holiday cheer in “The Nutcracker” as an important experience for children in the audience.

Nutcracker2“This production is geared very heavily toward children and it's a great way to bring art into a young person’s life,” explains Mennite. “I can say from a professional standpoint, you don’t always have that chance to share with a young audience in other ballets.”

That emphasis on families combined with Kelley’s choreography, which stays as true to the original ballet as possible, makes SCBT’s production a classic holiday tradition that all generations can enjoy.

“I think in our fast-changing society, people like to hold onto tradition—and traditions are traditions because they stay the same,” says Kelley. “When I go to see ‘The Nutcracker’ I don't want to be aware of big changes. It wouldn't be my favorite holiday tradition if it wasn't the same as last year.”

While there were some minute adjustments made to the choreography to accommodate new dancers, it is almost identical to the choreography that SCBT used 11 years ago. Likewise, the score, the venue, the tech crew and even the directors have remained the same over the years.

While “The Nutcracker” may seem frozen in time, audiences look forward to the ever-changing cast of dancers. Every year SCBT students as young as 4 are training and inevitably climbing the ranks just as Mennite did. As dancers get older and move on, a new generation fills their roles.

 “Our kids walk down the hallways and see images of our alumni on the walls and when they see someone like Melody in person, they are awestruck,” laughs Kelley. “The coolest thing about it is that they know that she came from Santa Cruz, they know she started in the studio, and they know it’s possible for them to be like her when they grow up.”

Cast this year as the Baby Mouse, 11-year-old Milana Beck has already set her sights on one day being cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy. In her fifth year participating in SCBT’s “The Nutcracker,” Beck is still learning how to be a ballerina, a student, and a teacher within the SCBT community.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the range of dancers because I’m in that in-between age where I can teach the younger dancers stuff that I’ve learned from the older dancers,” explains Beck. “I like teaching—it’s kind of like passing down. I can look up to the older dancers and the younger dancers look up to me.” 


Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 20-22 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. For tickets and info, visit scbt.org or call 420-5260.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.