For regional devotees of Christmas’s most popular ballet, the question has become how to distinguish one Nutcracker from another. Santa Barbara Ballet Center’s version, performed annually at the Arlington Theatre, has become a holiday tradition for many Santa Barbara families. It is certainly an impressive production, and the only preprofessional performance in California accompanied by a full symphony orchestra. Many of the professional dancers hired for the second act are graduates of the Ballet Center.
Keely Moore led the cast as Clara this year, the young girl who receives the Nutcracker. One of the most moving scenes was the flawless snow pas de deux between Ballet Center alumna Hilary Olivera and David Eck, both former Houston Ballet dancers; at the end they are joined by a flurry of human snowflakes, and snow falls on stage from the rafters of the theater. The Arabian pas de deux, choreographed by UCSB dance faculty member Valerie Huston, starred Ballet Center alumna Aimee Lopez alongside Ian McGinnis; they danced a sensually elegant duet worthy of any professional Nutcracker. Los Angeles Ballet’s Corinna Gill and Darius Crenshaw finished the evening triumphantly as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, with perfect partnering and graceful lines and jumps.