Local ballet company unwraps inaugural ‘Nutcracker’

MPBT’s Nutcracker (freshman Skye Burttschell) poses with the Mouse Queen (Sophie Knight).

BY SOPHIA BURAGLIO

The swirling snowflakes and waltzing flowers of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” are an international hallmark of the holidays. This winter, a new production of the ballet is coming to Carmel.

Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre, a nonprofit founded this year, will be presenting its inaugural performance of “The Nutcracker,” featuring an entirely local cast that includes several CHS students, at the Sunset Center on Dec. 15-16 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.

“It really is so special, what we’re able to put onstage—and to think, it’s only people who are under the age of 19 who are dancing onstage,” Carmel senior Natalie Lobo says.

Lobo began dancing at age 3 and performed in her first “Nutcracker” when she was 7. This year, she is the Sugar Plum Fairy, as well as one of Clara’s friends.

“I’ve put a lot of work into it,” says Lobo, who asserts that the entire cast and community have been extremely dedicated to putting on the performance. “I think it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked for something. I can truly say that.”

Parents and dancers alike are pitching in to help with all aspects of the show.

“We’re all working together,” Lobo says. “On Saturdays and Sundays we’re all in the studio and people are doing waltz while the snow [dancers] are rhinestoning the waltz tutus. It’s just honestly such a community effort, and we all work so hard together, and I think we all want [‘Nutcracker’] to happen so badly.”

Freshman Skye Burttschell also performed in “The Nutcracker” for the first time at age 7. He has performed the role of Fritz four times and this year is taking on the role of the eponymous Nutcracker. He credits the show as having kick-started his love of dance.

“I used to always love acting, but once I tried out for ‘The Nutcracker,’ I loved the dance and being able to tell a story without talking, showing emotions without words,” Burttschell says.

He and Lobo agree that Tia Brown, executive and artistic director of MPBT, plays a large role in inspiring students and helping them reach their full potential as dancers. Brown is dedicated to ensuring the newly founded ballet theater provides a welcoming environment for children of all ages, along with quality dance instruction.

“It is very inclusive of all, and exclusive of none,” Brown says. “There has been no child turned away for any rhyme or reason.”

Another key aspect of the MPBT mission is to create an atmosphere where students can be exposed to art forms besides dance, thereby fostering an arts appreciation that transcends one’s own personal expertise.

“That is our primary focus and goal: to make sure that youth are not just focused on their one area of arts and dreams, or none of the performing arts, but to…infiltrate each other’s genre of art and bring them together in collaboration,” Brown says.

Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre also has a strong focus on arts outreach.

According to Lobo, “Nutcracker” dancers have spent every weekend since early November visiting assisted living facilities, performing selections from the show for senior citizens. Additionally, Brown explains, the cast scheduled a show on the morning of Friday’s performance for underserved students in the area, who might not otherwise have opportunities to see high-level arts performances. Lobo states that this performance is the one that she has looked forward to the most.

Brown asserts that she is looking forward to many future Monterey Peninsula Ballet productions and is excited to be working with a team of people who are equally dedicated to the nonprofit’s mission.

“Eventually we want to be able to offer more opportunities for children to grow through arts performances and these types of experiences,” Brown says. “And at the rate we’re going, I’m pretty sure we’ll succeed with our dream in the next few years.”