Santa Barbara Festival Ballet to perform Christmas classic this weekend
Professional ballerina Alexandra Hutchinson has been dancing in “The Nutcracker” since she was 5, and she’s played nearly all the roles.
The 27-year-old member of the Dance Theater of Harlem hasn’t danced as the central character Clara, and there’s one other character she has yet to tackle.
“I haven’t done the Rat King,” Ms. Hutchinson, dressed as the Snow Queen from “The Nutcracker,” told the News-Press with a big smile in the lobby of
the Arlington Theatre. “I feel like I could add a little twist to it!” She laughed.
It was the laugh of a dancer who loves the sensation of becoming a character and stepping, turning and spinning with grace during a magical journey. That’s the power of dance.
“The chance to be a queen on stage is really exciting to me,” said Ms. Hutchinson, who portrays the Snow Queen in Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” set for 2:30 and 7 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at The Arlington Theatre.
“The adrenaline you get on stage is immeasurable,” the enthusiastic dancer said. “That’s always something I enjoy when I perform.”
This weekend’s production features dancers from Santa Barbara Festival Ballet and principal guest dancers: Ms. Hutchinson and Kouadio Davis from the Dance Theater of Harlem and Angelo Greco and Misa Kuranaga, from San Francisco Ballet. Also performing are students from the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance and Santa Barbara City College.
Valerie Huston is Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s interim executive director and resident choreographer.
This is the second of three “Nutcracker” productions that Ms. Hutchinson and Mr. Davis, 24, who portrays the Snow Cavalier/King, have danced in with ballet companies. Both dancers say they’re enjoying their roles.
Santa Barbara High School senior Anya McCue is portraying Clara, and Jesse Cuevas from UCSB is playing the Nutcracker Prince.
“I would say the students are very talented,” Ms. Hutchinson said about the various dancers in this production of “The Nutcracker.” “I see a lot of promise in their work.”
Ms. Hutchinson said she’s excited to see the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet production. This weekend’s shows mark the company’s 47th annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
Ms. Hutchinson also has her milestone.
“This is my 22nd year of doing ‘The Nutcracker,’” Ms. Hutchinson said. “I’m so happy. The music is so beautiful. It really takes you to a fairyland, a winter wonderland. I really like to be able to feel the music and express the music with my body.
“There are so many great ballets that people don’t know, but this is one of the ballets everyone’s familiar with,” Ms. Hutchinson said. “It’s a nice sense of tradition. It’s my favorite time of the year.
“It reminds me of when I was younger, and my family would come out and see me perform every year,” Ms. Hutchinson said. “I’m from Washington, D.C., so I would dance at the Washington School of Ballet.”
When she first appeared in “The Nutcracker” at age 5, she played one of the kids at the Christmas party in the opening scene. “I was the smallest one! That was really fun,” said Ms. Hutchinson, who earned her bachelor’s in dance in 2017 at Indiana University.
She said that as the Snow Queen, she strives to be elegant and mature.
Ms. Hutchinson also noted that because she and Mr. Davis frequently dance together at the Dance Theater of Harlem, they find they are connecting more in their movements. “We’re pushing ourselves to be our best technically and artistically.”
Mr. Davis told the News-Press that he enjoys the opportunity that the pas de deux with the Snow Queen gives him to focus on acting and expressing emotions. He said that’s in contrast to solos in which he might be focusing more on placement and technicalities.
“It’s an opportunity to focus on a different part of technique,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to dance with my partner, to smile at her and be in the moment.”