Marika Kobayashi | Credit: Heidi Bergseteren

He’s got loads of competition, but the greatest composer of Christmas music is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Each year, dance companies worldwide spin vivid webs of delightful fantasy to the sounds of his evergreen score to The Nutcracker ballet. It’s got it all — light and dark moments, romance, and enough variety to populate a whole dancing village.

For their return to the Granada, State Street Ballet and its affiliated school, Gustafson Dance, brought in the Opera San Luis Obispo Grand Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Brian Asher Alhadeff. Their playing was excellent, and a live orchestra added enormously to the event’s energy. Company dancer Amara Galloway made a lithe and compelling Clara, and Sergei Domrachev provided vital support in the roles of Herr Drosselmeyer and Mother Ginger. Newcomer Nathaniel Tyson showed his talent for comedy as the Grandmother in the opening party sequence.

Act One concludes with the great and magical Waltz of the Snowflakes, and it was a great pleasure to see 21 dancers bring this classic number to life once again. Highlights of Act Two included Amber Hirschfield, Anna Nader, and Eliana Swanberg as the Mirlitons and Deise Mendonça in multiple roles. The epic Waltz of the Flowers gave the company and the Gustafson students another opportunity to demonstrate their skills and revive the great community spirit at the heart of every excellent Nutcracker performance.

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on April 12, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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