There may be no better cure for Covid fatigue than American Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” that opens Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 19 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Co-presented by the Center and ABT with choreography by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky, “The Nutcracker” is the beloved holiday story based on “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffmann and set to a magical score by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.
In its annual holiday engagement, American Ballet Theatre will give 12 performances in Segerstrom Hall. This year marks the 6th time that The Center has presented ABT’s “The Nutcracker,” which is undoubtedly Southern California’s grandest production of this beloved holiday tradition. This Nutcracker features ABT’s international all-star cast.
One of the ballerinas dancing the role of Clara the Princess is Catherine Hurlin, who originated the role of young Clara in this production some 10 years ago. She’s also danced other roles in the production, and is happy to be dancing Clara the Princess for the first time.
“To me, this is going to be very sentimental,” said Hurlin during a recent phone interview from New York. “I originated the young Clara, and there is a scene when the older Clara dances a waltz step and the younger Clara does the same steps, so revisiting that and dancing to the music again—it’s going to be very sentimental.”
It’s also a role that requires learning new steps, but Hurlin is up for the challenge.
“As a dancer goes into any new role, there are new things to get into your body, things to learn and practice,” said Hurlin. “I was 14 or 15 when I danced young Clara. I am now 25 and have improved on my vocabulary. I know all of the choreography, but it’s different doing it compared to watching it. I had always hoped, after dancing young Clara, that it would be amazing to get into the ABT company and do the older Clara.”
It’s also amazing for ABT to be back at Segerstrom Center with a full-length ballet. Like other art forms, dance performances stopped in March 2020. New York was especially hard hit by Covid, making it nearly impossible for dancers to rehearse.
“It was very hard to not be able to go to our studios and take classes,” agreed Hurlin. “I was fortunate to find a small studio that I rented and was able to take classes there. A lot of people did it in their living rooms. I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of dancers and say it’s been very hard to go through the pandemic and not do the things we love to do. To me, dance is my life. Without it I feel like I have no purpose, so I felt like I lost my purpose.”
That purpose has come back to Hurlin thanks to “The Nutcracker.”
Hurlin may have originated the role of young Clara for ABT, but a local budding ballerina has been selected to portray young Clara in this year’s production.
Newport Beach resident Brooke Treska, 12, is one of two girls chosen to portray Clara at alternating performances. Brooke attends the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School at Segerstrom Center. The pandemic held its own challenges for the young students.
“After a year of virtual training, the ABT Gillespie students are ready to shine in ABT’s performances of ‘The Nutcracker,’” said Principal Teacher and Coordinator of the Children’s Division, Sarah Jones. “From virtual training, to pods of socially distanced classes, to returning full time in the studios, the students have pivoted time and time again to ensure their training and health are both a top priority. This year’s production of The Nutcracker will be even more spectacular because of the enthusiasm these young dancers bring to the performance. The students will truly be ecstatic to be on stage, no acting required.”
Brooke is indeed thrilled to be cast as Clara. She’s been in “The Nutcracker” in the past but this is her first turn as Clara.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” said Brooke. “I have been practicing. There’s a lot of choreography, but the character is fun. I’m really excited to dance with the ABT professional company.”
Brooke’s mother, Blair, explained that while Brook dances Clara in six of the 12 performances, she has to be there for all 12 to make sure the other Clara goes on. And, said Blair, ABT tries to cast the Clara performances to match the soloists they most look like so the younger Clara looks similar to the older Clara.
Brooke noted that it’s an amazing experience to see the professional dancers and be a part of the production. And what does she hope audiences take away after seeing “The Nutcracker”?
“Hopefully they walk out and think that the magic of the holidays has begun.”
Single tickets for American Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” start at $20 and are now available online at www.SCFTA.org, at the Box office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, or by calling (714) 556-2787.
Audience Advisory: The Center’s COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “Fully vaccinated” means your performance is at least 14 days after your final vaccine dose. To enter the theatre, please bring proof of vaccination, either your physical vaccination card, a picture of your vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record. Most California residents may request a digital vaccination record at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov
Those who are under age 12 and anyone without proof of being fully vaccinated must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours (3 days) prior to entering the theatre.
Masks are required at all times for all patrons and visitors regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces at Segerstrom Center.
Performance ticket holders who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted.