For the past 39 years, the Westside Ballet of Santa Monica has thrilled audiences with its annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
For eight of those years, from 1988 to 1996, Melissa Barak performed practically every female dance role for this production.
Now aged 32, Barak returns this year to work with the company dancers, who are currently preparing to perform on the weekends of Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11.
Since leaving Westside Ballet of Santa Monica to launch her professional career, a few of her highlights include becoming a soloist and principal with NYC Ballet and becoming an award winning choreographer and the youngest choreographer every commissioned by NYC ballet. She later joined Los Angeles Ballet and now teaches at Westside School of Ballet.
She said Westside Ballet was a special place to dance and grow.
“It’s a studio that not only allows you to develop as a dancer, but as an individual as well,” Barak said. “I feel love, laughter, and encouragement is unfortunately rare in the professional dance world and to have had that as my experience growing up at Westside has always helped me stay focused on who I am as an artist and why I love ballet.”
Westside Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” transports audiences to a magical world filled with peppermint candy and dancing snowflakes.
It’s the traditional full-length ballet, from the Victorian-style party scene to the glittering Sugar Plum Fairy.
Barak said she loved how Westside’s production of “The Nutcracker” had become such a holiday tradition in L.A.
“I love how it stays true to the story of Clara and her adventures to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugarplum Fairy,” she said. “It’s a production filled with talented children and teenagers who dedicate their days to doing something they really believe in and love, and to see them all get to express that in a performance is such a heartwarming experience.”
Overseeing the production as Artistic Director is Yvonne Mounsey, founder of Westside Ballet of Santa Monica and former principal dancer with New York City Ballet under George Balanchine.
During Mounsey’s distinguished career with New York City Ballet, she created the solo role in the Spanish variation for Balanchine’s original production of “The Nutcracker.”
Westside Ballet of Santa Monica draws its company from the affiliated Westside Ballet School, customarily considered the premier ballet school in Los Angeles.
This year’s “Nutcracker” will be hosted at the Wadsworth Theatre in Brentwood of Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11 with performances at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Wadsworth Theatre is located 11301 Wilshire Blvd, Brentwood.
Tickets are available through www.ticketmaster.com. Search for Westside Ballet of Santa Monica Nutcracker. All tickets are $30.
For more information, visit www.westsideballet.com.