By Jackie Moe
The dazzling, endearing holiday tradition presented by the renowned American Ballet Theatre, The Nutcracker, returns to Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Dec. 10-19 for 12 performances.
Based on The Nutcracker and the King of Mice by E.T.A. Hoffmann and scored by legendary composer Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, the beloved Christmas ballet features ABT’s international superstars. This year marks the 6th time The Center will present the glorious production.
ABT dancer Skylar Brandt will make her debut as the primary role of Clara, the Princess in The Nutcracker. Her exceptional dance career began when she was just six years old at Scarsdale Ballet Studio in New York. She attended Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre from 2005-2009 under the direction of Franco De Vita, spent five summers at ABT’s New York Summer Intensive, and was a National Training Scholar receiving the Bender Foundation Scholarship in 2009 and a silver medal at Youth America Grand Prix in 2004 and 2008.
Brandt is thrilled to make her debut as Clara on the Segerstrom Hall stage.
Have you performed in The Nutcracker before? If so, where and when?
I have performed “The Nutcracker” so many times! I began at SUNY Purchase college, dancing the role of a baby mouse when I was probably six years old. From there, I played an angel, a party kid and Clara. When I joined ABT, I performed as one of the dolls, a snowflake, a flower, the Chinese dance and one of Nutcracker’s sisters. It has been a lot of fun to delve into so many characters within the same story ballet.
How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing for a little over 20 years. It has gone by in a blink of an eye!
What does it mean to you to be a part of this renowned production?
I especially enjoy this version of “The Nutcracker” because it is different from most of the classic Nutcracker productions out there. In our production, it’s not just the tree that grows; the furniture and the mice grow too. Our Waltz of the Flowers includes bumble bees. The entire second act centers around Clara’s dream of growing up and getting married to her Nutcracker Prince. The production comes full circle which gives it a really human quality that I appreciate.
What dance number is your favorite, and why?
So far, my favorite role in ABT’s version of “The Nutcracker” has been the Chinese dance. The choreography is fast and exciting and the music is whimsical and charming. It’s always a crowd pleaser, so it’s fun to perform.
Why is this particular production special to you?
This production holds a special place in my heart because it is the first ballet I performed with ABT when I joined the company as an Apprentice eleven years ago. I have many nostalgic feelings attached to my experiences rehearsing and performing it all these many years.
What are you most excited for the audience to experience this year?
Going to see “The Nutcracker” is such a classic family tradition during the holiday season, I’m happy for the audience to be able to experience the magic of it again after a year off. I think that the performances will be appreciated even more this year after the pandemic.
What do you want people to know about this production?
I’d like people to understand how difficult the choreography is in Ratmansky’s production of “The Nutcracker”. Naturally, our job as dancers is to make the choreography look completely effortless, but it is the exact opposite. I think that it would give the audience even more appreciation for the production knowing how much effort and skill is required from everyone to perform it!
American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker feat. Pacific Symphony
Segerstrom Center for the Arts — Segerstrom Hall
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
December 10 – 19
For times, dates, and ticket info, visit scfta.org