A Sweet Dream Nutcracker Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary

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PATRICIA TOMLINSON
Orinda Ballet Academy brings the holiday spirit to life Dec. 7-9 in A Sweet Dream Nutcracker, now in its 10th year on the stage of the Orinda Library Auditorium. Dancers from “The Land of Sweets” (L-R): Amali Chatterjee (Waltz of the Flowers), Lila Moss (Ribbon Candy), Claire Mercer (Clara), Elsa Cooke (Spanish Hot Chocolate), and Sofia Paraskaki (Russian Tea Cakes).

    A festive Christmas party with wonderful presents, a dreamy trip to the Land of Sweets, and a favorite toy come to life, what more could a young girl want? Not much if you’re Clara in Orinda Ballet Academy’s production of A Sweet Dream Nutcracker. 
    Celebrating its 10th year, the popular holiday event will once again grace the stage at the Orinda Library Auditorium with approximately 80 talented students, ranging in age from 3 – 18 years, and professional dancers making dreams come true. This year’s extravaganza takes place Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 8 at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The student dancers are divided into two casts.
    “We have a few special additions for this year’s performance,” says Founder and Artistic Director Patricia Tomlinson. “One fun change is we are having a Mouse Queen versus the Mouse King with a fun pas de deux battle between the Nutcracker and Mouse Queen.”
    Taking the stage alongside the student dancers will be professional dancers Alysia Chang (Snow Queen, Waltz of the Flowers Dew Drop, Arabian Coffee); Jacob Kreamer (Nutcracker and Cavalier); Richard Link (Uncle Drosselmeyer, Spanish and Arabian dancer); and Jackie McConnell (Sugar Plum Fairy and Mouse Queen). Also bringing their expertise to the performance are alumni dancers Alyssa Palano and Ashley Brolin (Spanish and Arabian dancers). Adult volunteers for the party scene include parents Cheri Etheredge, Juliet Montagnon and Jill Ellis.
    “This is quite an undertaking for our small company,” adds Tomlinson. “We have more than 1,000 costumes, and it takes our student dancers a full three and a half months to learn all their many dances. It’s quite a commitment from the student performers and their families, but there are also many rewards that come with being part of this fun holiday ballet tradition.”
    Tomlinson also wears many hats with this show including director, choreographer and, often, seamstress.
    “Nutcracker is one of my favorite ballets and to be honest I never get tired of hearing the music and working on the dances,” she says. “It is also wonderful  to see how the students progress through the different dances each year as they develop into beautiful ballet dancers!”
    Tomlinson founded Orinda Ballet in April of 2009 and has built a well-respected academy attended by students throughout Lamorinda. Tomlinson, herself, had a distinguished career as a dancer. She studied with such legends as George Balanchine, Alexandra Danilova, Peter Martins and Helgi Tomasson. She was also chosen by Natalia Makarova to perform in the former prima ballerina’s company in New York City. Tomlinson continued her career as a soloist and principal with Houston Ballet Company, Pennsylvania Ballet and Diablo Ballet. She has also guest performed, taught and set ballets throughout the United States before committing herself to teaching the next generation of dancers through Orinda Ballet.
    For those not familiar with the beloved story, The Sweet Dream Nutcracker tells of young Clara, who is given a special Nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. Later that night, the Nutcracker, along with various toy soldiers and mice, magically transform to life size and take Clara on an adventurous journey through the Enchanted Winter Forest to the Land of Sweets. They encounter lots of colorful characters along the way including frolicking Snowflakes and their gorgeous Snow Queen, dancing Russian Tea Cakes, Gingerbread Cookies, Jack in the Box Clowns and Jesters, and an adorable pre-ballet division of Peppermint and Wintermint Sweets.
“The ballet students are working super hard, and we are thankful for the Orinda community’s support of the arts by attending our performances,” Tomlinson adds.
    Tickets to A Sweet Dream Nutcracker are $22 in advance and $25 at the door. Go to www.brownpapertickets.com. For more information on Orinda Ballet Academy, go to www.orindaballetacademy.com.

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