For 47 years, Bonnie Curtis has operated her eponymous Curtis Studio of Dance in Carpinteria, and for just under half of those years helmed “The Nutcracker” for the holiday season, a tradition she will continue with two shows at Carpinteria Middle School. On December 13 and 14, dancers under Ms. Curtis’ direction will perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet in its traditional classical style, with a few surprises for anyone unfamiliar with her take on the Christmas classic.
In an interview with the News-Press, Ms. Curtis said CSD’s production of “The Nutcracker” is a faithful telling of the holiday story, in which a young girl named Clara receives a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve and ventures on a magical journey to places like the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. However, the show will be performed in a slightly different order than it is ordinarily. While the CSD version will begin with the usual “party scene” the first act will conclude with the fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King instead of its usual endpoint, the dance of falling snowflakes. According to Ms. Curtis, this change is due to the fact that the stage of the performance’s venue, Carpinteria Middle School, only has one pipe on which to hang a backdrop and doesn’t have the “fly capability” necessary for quickly transitioning a background.
Perhaps more apparent than the slightly altered performance order is the show’s opening, which features elves dancing to a non-Tchaikovsky piece called “The Holiday” by Scott Killian. The director explained that her school’s productions of “The Nutcracker” feature as many of her students who want to participate and that all who sign up can take part without an audition. A few years ago, Ms. Curtis added this introduction as a way of including a surplus of kids who had signed up. She has kept this addition each year since it was first introduced, as the uninitiated audience members don’t expect it.
“The audience is so surprised by it all and it’s fun,” she said.
Among Ms. Curtis’ students, CSD’s production of “The Nutcracker” will also include a couple of professional dancers including Lester Horton Award-winner Jean Michelle Sayeg as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Every year, the director gets a professional to dance in this particular role, in part due to its technical difficulty, and also because it allows her students to acquire experience performing with a dancer of the highest caliber.
“That allows the audience to see professionals and for my girls to see, ‘Alright we’re dancing onstage with professionals,’” she said.
The one dancer who will be on stage throughout the show’s entirety however is 11-year-old Logan Labistour as the protagonist Clara. A 6th grader at Carpinteria Middle School, Logan in the past has played small roles like a mouse, one of the ginger snaps, and a variety of different characters. When asked to name her favorite parts of the show, Logan said she particularly likes the section when she tells the story of what her character has experienced throughout the entire show, as well as her solo during the “snow princess scene.” As for how she feels about taking center stage this time, there’s a mixture of emotions.
“I’m glad I got this part and I’m a bit nervous, but overall I’m excited about the part,” she said.
Curtis Studio of Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be held at Carpinteria Middle School, located at 5351 Carpinteria Ave. The December 13 performance will begin at 7 p.m. and the December 14 performance at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and can be inquired about by calling (805) 732-3229.