Visions of Sugar Plums – The Festival Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker

Oh, the magic of it all. Living dolls. The Sugar Plum Fairy. The Snow Queen. Dancing snowflakes. A Christmas tree that grows to spectacular heights. It’s The Nutcracker, in all its magic, beauty, and holiday charm. With music by Peter Tchaikovsky and stunning scenery and costume design by Simon Pastukh and Galina Solovyeva, Salwa Rizkalla’s production has something to delight every family member. It’s not everyday you have a chance to create a new tradition, a custom, of enjoying performing arts, but The Festival Ballet Theatre has found two regulars in their spectacular production. There are few things that personify Christmas like The Nutcracker and I can’t wait to share that experience with my family for years to come.

Generations of audiences have enjoyed this Christmas favorite, a charming tale of holiday adventure that follows Clara, a young girl who receives the gift of a nutcracker soldier from her mysterious godfather. During the night, magical events unfold: the Christmas tree grows taller, toy soldiers and little mice become larger, and Clara’s nutcracker comes to life. He battles the ferocious Mouse King, and just when it seems all is lost, Clara distracts the Mouse King and saves her beloved nutcracker. Her act of bravery transforms the nutcracker into a handsome prince who takes Clara on a magical journey.

In the opening act, the audience was mesmerized by the party scene at the Tannenbaum’s home. The party cast managed to captivate audience members with colorful expressions and cutesy scenarios. Particularly remarkable was the well-acted sibling rivalry displayed between Clara and her young brother. The living dolls delighted all, followed by an entertaining escapade of tiny dancing mice. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King wowed the audience with their amazing jumping abilities and thrilling sword fight scene, captivating the attention of both the male and female audience.

The opening scene of Act 2 was highlighted by excellent choreography and stunning costuming. The Chinese dances were especially entertaining and obviously well-rehearsed, but the most remarkable performance was the Sugar Plum Fairy, flawlessly danced by Irina Dvorovenko. Dvorovenko thrilled the audience with a series of gravity-defying toe touches and breathtaking pirouettes.  Her control, innocence, and grace represented all that is beautiful about the ballet. I felt a lump in my throat as I imagined my daughter leaping across the stage in a dream-like costume like the Sugar Plum Fairy.

We celebrated the season with a cast of hundreds as they took us on a magical journey to mystical lands. This family-friendly and affordable production featuring world-renowned guest artists from American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, Festival Ballet Theatre’s professional company dancers, and exceptional budding young talent from across Southern California is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. Visions of Sugar Plums will be dancing in my head to Tchaikovsky the whole season. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without The Nutcracker.

Festival Ballet Theatre: The Nutcracker

Presented by Festival Ballet Theatre
12/10/2011 – 12/24/2011

With internationally-acclaimed guest artists  from American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey Ballet.

December 10 & 11
Irina Dvorovenko Maxim Beloserkovsky

December 16-18
Gillian Murphy  Gennadi Saveliev

December 20 -24
April Daly Fabrice Calmels

84 thoughts on “Visions of Sugar Plums – The Festival Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker

    • It’s possible to watch it on TV, but to truly appreciate the beauty and magic of it all, you really do have to see the ballet live. My husband was equally impressed with the grace and skill of the artists.

      Happy Holidays; I hope they are filled with happiness and joy.



  1. I love this! I’ve seen it every year since I was twelve, performed by my local dance company. I’ve moved to a new city and I wondered if this would be my first year without it. Forever amazing.


  2. Hi, Lesley! Thank-you for the ‘like’ and for visiting my blog. And congratulations on your soon-to-be-new baby! How exciting! I’ve 3 daughters who dance, and we own several videos of the Nutcracker – each one has a favourite dancer, bit of choreography or costume that would make the *perfect* show if we could compile them all into one! And one very spectacular pop-up Nutcracker book that’s almost as yummy as visiting the Kingdom of Sweets in person!


  3. You’re absolutely right…couldn’t be the holidays without the Nutcracker. It’s one of my wife’s favorite holiday traditions. Great post – thanks for sharing!


    • Oh…. it’s a must! It’s so beautiful, graceful, elegant! There is an innocence to The Nutcracker that brings out the little girl in every lady 🙂

      Hopefully you will experience it.

      Happy Holidays,



      • this may sound kind of CHILDISH..BUT stick with me lol…okay….My suggestion for introducing this lovely ballet to your little girl is – DVD-” BARBIE in the Knutcracker”
        My daughter is 7 yrs old and she loves loves this dvd, she enjoys the music and colorful images of dancing ballerinas:)
        I just ordered her a new copy becasue she wanted to see the dvd this year again, each year she asks for nutcracker barbie dvd:)
        Its good to have little girls appreciate LIFE ballet of course! but for those of us that cant afford to take our children this is a cheaper way of introducing classical arts to their tiny hearts and ears:)


  4. i live in Boston and think I have seen the current version of the nutcracker a dozen times….sadly this will be the last year it will be performed. I’m sad but, looking forward to see next years rendition. A classic will always be classic!


  5. The first time I went to the Nutcracker I was in my 30s and my daughter was six. For me it was magical. My daughter remembered none of it so we went again last year. For her it was magical.
    Every girl needs to feel that magic at such a beautiful time of the year.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. Merry Christmas!


  6. I haven’t seen the Nutcracker in years. We thought about taking the kids this year but wondered if it might be over their heads a bit. But I think next year it’s time to try it. I remember in college, watching the Arabian dance and just melting.


  7. I remember the Nutcracker from my childhood. I am sure, I saw it more than once. These are beautiful memories and I t hank you for giving them to me.


  8. My mother used to do costumes for a local production of the Nutcracke – she didn’t make all of them but fit them each year as different dancers danced the various parts, kept them in good repair and helped to get all the kids (especially the younger ones) in and out of the many costumes (mice, snowflakes, soldiers, Dutch kids,Arabian, party guests, flowers, Ribbon Candy, etc. etc.). The music is wonderful and I just LOVE the pas de duex with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Ahhh.


  9. One of my all time favourite ballets….in fact its one of the things that got me into it on a bigger scale – that and reading Ballet Shoes and the Sadler’s Wells series at a young age!

    This performance looks amazing….certainly better than the last one of it I saw!


  10. the photos are stunning. Having three boys I have never taken them, but maybe I will…… I think they would actually truly enjoy the performance.


  11. That I recall, I’ve never seen the ballet live. I should remedy that sometime. I can say this, however, that I’ve heard some genuinely fascinating and creative renditions of some of the more renown pieces from it, e.g., Dance of the Sugar Plum Faries.


  12. Great post with wonderful photos – I feel like I was right there in the theater watching the performance. Your blog is a very happy combination of personal expression and professional production. Thanks too for your like on my most recent post, it’s my first “like”! I’m just getting going with my blog, and it’s nice to have the support. Congrats on your upcoming promotion to motherhood – your daughter will be a very lucky little girl to have such an adventurous and accomplished mommy. Actually, I think your past history of jumping off of high things will serve you well in preparing for your transition to parenthood. It’s probably the closest experience I can think of.


  13. I am an avid theatre goer but I confess to not having watched The Nutcracker yet. Boo to me indeed. I’d check out our Esplanade Theatre here if we have Nutcracker this season and I’d be sure to seriously consider it. great photos by the way! You were allowed a camera inside the theatre??? Good for you!


  14. As usual your pictures are beautiful and the linking of the Holiday with the Nutcracker is most timely. My youngest daughter danced a sugar plum in one in Utah one year when she was 10.
    She loved to dress up and to dance and be part of a large group effort.


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