The winter holiday season would not be complete without a local production of “The Nutcracker.” Westside Ballet of Santa Monica, in association with the Santa Monica College Symphony, presents its 40th Anniversary Nutcracker performances at the Broad Stage this weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
However, strong word of mouth in the lead-up to these two shows has led to a sellout of tickets already.
The Westside Ballet and SMC partnership is part of a broader initiative to support the arts in education and make the performances accessible to Santa Monica’s youth and underserved community members.
Twenty-four of the dancers are high school students concurrently enrolled at Santa Monica College. The production will earn the students three units of college credit through a course listed as Dance 59a – a production class with a curriculum based on what it takes to put a production together. The partnership represents SMC’s commitment to developing pathways from the arts to education.
Dr. James Martin, Conductor and SMC Department of Music Chair, said he was thrilled for the partnership.
“It had been on my bucket list for years to take my Santa Monica College Symphony to the Broad to perform The Nutcracker,” Dr. Martin said.
Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, SMC’s Associate Director of Public Policy, who was instrumental in creating the partnership, said the program will create a pathway to attract students into arts education careers.
“Young people think of dancing in a professional company or performing in an orchestra, but they don’t necessarily see the academic opportunities,” Dr. Tahvildaran-Jesswein said. “We’re trying to capture their interest early.”
Across the country, arts education are being outshone and de-funded to concentrate funds and resources on STEM – Science Technology Engineering and Math – pathways.
Westside Ballet has been committed to bringing arts awareness to children citywide, regardless of socioeconomic levels and has oftentimes concentrated their efforts toward those in need.
On Wednesday, Nov. 27, about 500 Santa Monica fifth graders saw an abbreviated presentation of “The Nutcracker.”
On Friday, Nov. 29, Westside will have its final, full dress rehearsal performance to hundreds more community members from non-profits such as the Venice Family Clinic, everybody dance!, Free 2 Be Me Dance, and others.
Allegra Clegg, who is also the daughter of Westside Ballet founder and legendary ballerina Yvonne Mounsey, says, “I am so grateful for the outpouring of community support surrounding the Nutcracker. After founding Westside over 40 years ago, my mother worked tirelessly to develop dancers and nurture dance in the community, with affordable, accessible performances. I am proud to continue in her legacy.”
Tahvildaran-Jesswein believes the academic component to art will encourage artists to in turn, eventually effect change in public policy.
“The goal is for the dancer to advocate for public policy in the arts, the dancer and artist can do and will have skills to advocate for what they love in the greater good,” he said.
For more information about Westside Ballet of Santa Monica, visit www.westsideballet.com.