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January 28, 2023

‘Nutcracker Ballet’ takes center stage this weekend in King City

Monterey County Dance Theatre's 63rd annual production returns with special version

KING CITY — More than six decades of holiday tradition will commence Dec. 9-11 as the timeless “Nutcracker Ballet” takes the stage once again at the historic Robert Stanton Theater in King City.

Performed by the young dancers of the Monterey County Dance Theatre (MCDT) and sponsored by the Monterey County Dance Foundation, under the artistic direction of Janette Harkness, a cast of 84 will bring to life a rarely seen rendition of “The Nutcracker” this weekend.

“This ‘Nutcracker’ feels absolutely new,” said Monterey County Dance Foundation President Teri Storelli. “It’s amazing. I’ve watched ‘The Nutcracker’ every year for many years, but this take is so fresh. It’s like seeing it for the first time without losing any of the traditional magic.”

Harkness, artistic director and choreographer of MCDT, shared some insight on this year’s 63rd annual production.

“This version of ‘Nutcracker’ is special, as I have only choreographed and directed it one other time in 2012,” she said. “Based upon the 1977 American Ballet Theatre made-for-television movies, it mesmerized me.”

Kent Robinson of King City as Herr Drosselmeyer (middle) with lead dancers (from left) Sheccid Salas, Kali Jimenez and Chloe Arriaga, all of Soledad, will perform in the 63rd annual “Nutcracker Ballet” on Dec. 9-11. (Serrano Photography)

Harkness always had dreams of bringing this special version to life on stage.

“I hoped to someday stage it with our student company,” she said. “I did so here in 2012 and now proudly again for 2022. This version of ‘Nutcracker’ is not about a child Clara, but that of a young woman. The cast is superb. We cannot wait to share ‘The Nutcracker’ with you.”

Ticket sales have taken off for this year’s three performances and have surpassed previous years, according to Storelli. Tickets can be bought online through Eventbrite, and any seats that are left will be available at the door of each performance.

“Last year all three shows sold out, so the Monterey County Dance Foundation recommends purchasing online in advance if possible,” Storelli said.

Greenfield High School students (clockwise from top left) Ezrie Bautista in the “Trepak” (Russian Dance), Daisy Picazo in the Spanish Dance of Chocolate and Natalyse Solomon in the “Waltz of the Flowers” also star in this year’s show. (Serrano Photography)

“The Nutcracker Ballet” performances on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9 and 10, begin at 7:30 p.m., while the Sunday, Dec. 11, matinee performance is at 2 p.m. The Lobby and Holiday Boutique, with souvenirs and flowers, will open one hour prior to each showtime to accommodate patrons.

Parking is limited, so guests should plan on arriving early. The Robert Stanton Theater is located at King City High School off North Mildred Avenue.

‘Nutcracker’ cast

The 63rd annual “Nutcracker Ballet” features a cast of more than 80 dancers from South Monterey County.

This year’s lead role of Clara will be danced by 15-year-old Kali Jimenez, who has been dancing with MCDT since she was around 3 years old. Jimenez, an honor student at Soledad High School, is the daughter of Marlon and Cinthia Jimenez of Soledad.

Clara’s Friends will be played by 16-year-old Chloe Arriaga and 15-year-old Sheccid Salas. Arriaga, a sophomore at Soledad High, is the daughter of Fabian and Rosanna Arriaga of Soledad. Salas attends Notre Dame High School in Salinas, and her parents are Ricardo and Mayra Salas of Soledad. 

Alicia Quintana, a freshman at Soledad High, will dance the roles of the Toy Bear and Bon Bons. (Serrano Photography)

Alicia Quintana, a freshman at Soledad High, will dance the roles of the Toy Bear and Bon Bons. Her parents are Oscar Solis and Anayeli Gomez-Ruiz of Greenfield.

The Nutcracker Prince will be performed by Gideon Brown, a senior at King City High School and son of Tom and Mitzi Brown of King City. Kent Robinson of King City will portray this year’s Herr Drosselmeyer.

The Dew Drop Fairy will be danced by Olivia Garcia, a King City High School student whose parents are Henry and Kathy Garcia of King City.

Olivia Garcia of King City stars as this year’s Dew Drop Fairy. (Serrano Photography)

Vivien Cullen, who attends Chalone Peaks Middle School in King City, will play Fritz Silberhaus. She is the daughter of Rob and Allie Cullen of King City. 

Daisy Picazo, a senior at Greenfield High School, will star as the Mouse King and Spanish Dance of Chocolate in the 2022 “Nutcracker Ballet.” Picazo, who began dancing with MCDT when she was 6 years old, is the daughter of Jose and Alma Picazo of Greenfield.

“This will be Daisy’s last ‘Nutcracker’ as she plans for college next year,” Storelli said.

Also from Greenfield High performing in this year’s production are freshman Ezrie Bautista as a principal dancer in the “Trepak” (Russian Dance) and junior Natalyse Solomon in the “Waltz of the Flowers.” Bautista’s parents are James and Jessica Bautista of Greenfield, and Solomon is the daughter of Andrea Lopez of Greenfield and Steven Solomon of Clovis.

Vivien Cullen of King City as Fritz (right) dances with Clara, played by Kali Jimenez. (Serrano Photography)

Teri Storelli contributed to this article.

Ryan Cronk
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.

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