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The Nutcracker: old traditions, new names

Goodbye, California Ballet, hello, Golden State

Twenty-four professional dancers, along with 70 students, will be performing the choreography of Jared Nelson.
Twenty-four professional dancers, along with 70 students, will be performing the choreography of Jared Nelson.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker has been cleared from quarantine and is returning to The Civic Theater. Those familiar with The Nutcracker as it has been performed at The Civic in the past will recognize this production. The San Diego Symphony will be playing the iconic score and 24 professional dancers, along with 70 students, will be performing the choreography of Jared Nelson.

The only significant difference is in the name of the producing company. Golden State Ballet has taken over Nutcracker duty after the demise of California Ballet, which went the way of most arts organizations that are founded and run by a charismatic leader. When it came time for that leader to move on — after 50 years — the changing of the guard did not go well, and the organization fell apart. 

Golden State Ballet picked up some of the pieces, and is now trying to forge a new company, one that started in the midst of a quarantine. I stopped by their offices and studio to speak with Artistic Director Raul Salamanca and Executive Director Magda O’Neill.

Speaking of charismatic founders: I found myself wanting to chat about the arts all day with Salamanca. I asked what he thought was the most important element of dance. “I’m a student of the art form,” he replied, “and probably will continue to be for the rest of my life. That being said, I believe the teacher/student relationship is the most important thing in art. You have to pass it on to somebody else. The history of this tradition is what brings me in. The feelings I receive from dance is what keeps me in. George Balanchine said that the arts show us the true world. I think that people who dedicate their lives to the arts are special people. These are unique people who see things in a different way. I do believe that for society to function, the arts need to be a part of it.”

Video:

The Nutcracker: Pas de deux

Magda O’Neill added, “It’s also impossible to overstate just how much The Nutcracker is a part of the holiday tradition. For some families, it is the highlight of the entire season. We want to honor that and provide the best possible experience for families this holiday season. That’s why we’ve secured The San Diego Symphony and gone all in.”

As we were speaking, the professional dancers were rehearsing the famous pas de deux with its descending major scale. The music provided an inspiring soundtrack to the conversation we were having. I couldn’t help but feel that there was something important and authentic going on in this new company. 

The Nutcracker runs December 16-23 at The Civic Theater. More information is available at here.

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Twenty-four professional dancers, along with 70 students, will be performing the choreography of Jared Nelson.
Twenty-four professional dancers, along with 70 students, will be performing the choreography of Jared Nelson.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker has been cleared from quarantine and is returning to The Civic Theater. Those familiar with The Nutcracker as it has been performed at The Civic in the past will recognize this production. The San Diego Symphony will be playing the iconic score and 24 professional dancers, along with 70 students, will be performing the choreography of Jared Nelson.

The only significant difference is in the name of the producing company. Golden State Ballet has taken over Nutcracker duty after the demise of California Ballet, which went the way of most arts organizations that are founded and run by a charismatic leader. When it came time for that leader to move on — after 50 years — the changing of the guard did not go well, and the organization fell apart. 

Golden State Ballet picked up some of the pieces, and is now trying to forge a new company, one that started in the midst of a quarantine. I stopped by their offices and studio to speak with Artistic Director Raul Salamanca and Executive Director Magda O’Neill.

Speaking of charismatic founders: I found myself wanting to chat about the arts all day with Salamanca. I asked what he thought was the most important element of dance. “I’m a student of the art form,” he replied, “and probably will continue to be for the rest of my life. That being said, I believe the teacher/student relationship is the most important thing in art. You have to pass it on to somebody else. The history of this tradition is what brings me in. The feelings I receive from dance is what keeps me in. George Balanchine said that the arts show us the true world. I think that people who dedicate their lives to the arts are special people. These are unique people who see things in a different way. I do believe that for society to function, the arts need to be a part of it.”

Video:

The Nutcracker: Pas de deux

Magda O’Neill added, “It’s also impossible to overstate just how much The Nutcracker is a part of the holiday tradition. For some families, it is the highlight of the entire season. We want to honor that and provide the best possible experience for families this holiday season. That’s why we’ve secured The San Diego Symphony and gone all in.”

As we were speaking, the professional dancers were rehearsing the famous pas de deux with its descending major scale. The music provided an inspiring soundtrack to the conversation we were having. I couldn’t help but feel that there was something important and authentic going on in this new company. 

The Nutcracker runs December 16-23 at The Civic Theater. More information is available at here.

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