SALINAS VALLEY — A cast of 115 dancers from South Monterey County will perform the 64th anniversary production of “The Nutcracker Ballet” this weekend at the Robert Stanton Theater in King City.
“Plan to be amazed,” said Janette Harkness, artistic director of Monterey County Dance Theatre, which is celebrating its 65th year of teaching dance. “Your local students of dance are off the charts in ability, talent and potential.”
The local ballet — one of the oldest “Nutcracker” productions in the country — is produced by Monterey County Dance Foundation, with Monterey County Dance Theatre providing the student company that will perform under the direction and choreography of Harkness.
“I have been blessed to teach for 40 years,” said Harkness, who was honored last year as one of the Arts Council for Monterey County’s Champions of the Arts for her contribution to the arts community. “I am honored to work with these students of dance.”
This year’s performers range from the tiniest clock mouse at age 3 to adult dancers, who are all supported by the Monterey County Dance Foundation. The nonprofit organization covers the production fees associated with “The Nutcracker Ballet,” making classical dance performance accessible to everyone in southern Monterey County.
“This production is months in the making, with rehearsals starting in September,” said Teri Storelli, of the Monterey County Dance Foundation. “Dancers dedicate countless hours to bringing this holiday tradition to life.”
“The Nutcracker Ballet” features a young Clara played by Ella Guidotti, daughter of Jeremy and Ginnie Guidotti of King City, as she experiences a magical Christmas Eve. Her adventure begins at the family Christmas party, where guests are entertained by the magical toys of her godfather Herr Drosselmeyer, played again this year by Kent Robinson of King City.
Clara’s gift of a Nutcracker turns out to be a handsome prince played by Zeke Brown of King City, whose parents also play a part in the opening scene.
The cast also includes Clara’s brother Fritz, who will be performed by Giovanna Rubbo, daughter of Crystal Rubbo of Soledad, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, played by King City High School senior Olivia Garcia. Chloe Arriaga, a senior at Soledad High School, will dance as the Rose this year.
Audiences can expect a lively holiday party, an epic battle scene between the rats and toy soldiers, a wonderful adventure through the Land of Sweets and, of course, the magical moment when it snows on stage.
“The rest awaits you as Clara helps to save her Nutcracker,” Harkness said. “The audience will be transported under the Christmas tree, cannons will blast onstage, snow will fall and Clara will save the day and be rewarded with a trip to the Land of Sweets.”
“The Nutcracker Ballet” is open to children 4 years old and above, with performances scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Dec. 10, inside the Robert Stanton Theater at King City High School, 720 Broadway St. Tickets are available at the door.
Prior to the shows, King City High School musicians will be playing Christmas carols in the lobby as guests arrive. Storelli gave special thanks to KCHS Music Director David Bakken for making that happen this year.
In addition, Monterey County Dance Foundation is giving away more than 100 free tickets to children at local schools.
“Our school celebrates its 65th anniversary year,” Harkness said. “Education is why these students excel. Thank you for supporting them. See you at the ballet.”