The Los Angeles Ballet Throws It Back to 1913 L.A. for Their Production of The Nutcracker

Who even knew they had sugarplums back then?

When we photographed members of Los Angeles Ballet for our November fashion feature, we were able to take an up-close look at how they move offstage. Which (big surprise) can be summed up with one word: spectacularly. Those perfect grand jetés, arabesques, and side splits don’t just happen overnight, of course. Under the watchful eye of company artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, the dancers have grown and thrived.

Beginning this weekend at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Los Angeles Ballet is presenting a holiday favorite, The Nutcracker—complete with the snowflakes and menacing mice audiences have come to know and love. The production appears at venues around town through the end of the month; the schedule includes stops at the Valley Performing Arts Center, Royce Hall, and Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.

Rehearsals began in September for the cast, which consists of the entire company of 35 professional dancers and 20 children from Los Angeles Ballet School. Says Neary, “The most important thing is to tell the story in a realistic way, so the audience can become involved and feel a part of the experience.” We spoke with her and Christensen about embarking on their tenth season and weaving Los Angeles into their Nutcracker program.

Let’s start off with your tenth season. Congrats! Why did you select “the Great Romantics” as the theme?
Celebrating ten years calls for big, beautiful ballets, and what else can that mean but love, passion, and relationships? On a literal note, Giselle, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, and Romeo and Juliet are very different stories, but of course share the universal theme of love.

Why did you set your Nutcracker in 1913 Los Angeles?
Mikael Melbye’s costume design for the Act 1 party scene is set at the turn of the century. LAB’s design director, Catherine Kanner, gave us a Spanish-style L.A. home. The snow scene is set in the Sierra Nevada, and Act 2 is set on the coast in a beautiful palazzo. An L.A. Nutcracker through and through!

What does the story say about L.A.?
The sets and costumes clearly set our version in L.A. Beyond that, we’ve kept our story line traditional, honoring the holiday classic.

Any interesting detail you can share?
We have the best mice in the Nutcracker business—big, expressive, and very realistic! Baby Mouse is an L.A. celebrity.

We’ll be on the lookout when the clock strikes midnight!