Extravagant set-pieces, dancing and vibrant music have cultivated a dedicated audience for the San Francisco Ballet’s seasonal performance of “The Nutcracker” for 75 years.
“My mom and I go to the show together, as it has been a tradition since my childhood,” freshman Sage Swartz said. “I enjoy spending time with her and the show is so beautiful every time. There is something special about each performance that continues to grab my attention.”
In addition to the 30-foot tree, 18-pound ballerina doll costume and 600 pounds of snow, members of the Convent & Stuart Hall community often attend to support friends and family in the show.
“I went to the show with my children to see my student, junior Olivia Callander [who played the lead Clara for two consecutive years],” history teacher Michael Stafford said about his attendance last year. “Her dancing was lovely, and it is always a treat to see my students excel in ways beyond the classroom.”
Dancers are particularly grateful when the people they are close to support and encourage their hard work, especially because of the time commitment that goes into the show, according to Callander.
“In total, I’ve danced in SF Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker’ for the past seven years, adding up to over 100 individual performances,” Callander said. “It’s difficult to manage finals with rehearsals and shows, however performing on the Opera House stage alongside professional dancers is so magical and rewarding that it makes all the hours of preparation worth it.”
The original ballet was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia and tells the story of Clara and her journey through a magical world with her Nutcracker.
“My kids were mesmerized by the entire production,” Stafford said. “They loved seeing it snow on stage, hearing the music, and especially loved meeting Olivia afterward, they insisted on a picture with her.”
The show, brought to San Francisco in 1944, incorporates modern aspects of the city-life, architecture and culture.
“The San Francisco Ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ stands out as the first full-length ‘Nutcracker’ ever to be performed in America,” said Callander. “The World Fair was held right here in San Francisco, so this particular staging of ‘The Nutcracker’ incorporates many aspects of our city. For example, the party scene in Act One is set in a Victorian-style home, and the bug scene of Act Two is set in the Conservatory of Flowers.”
Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased by calling Ticket Services at 415.865.2000 or visiting sfballet.org/nutcracker. Performances continue through Dec. 29 at the War Memorial Opera House.
“The Nutcracker has continued to help me get into the holiday spirit because of its Christmas theme,” Swartz said. “It makes you feel as if you are experiencing Christmas all at once because each of the dances has its own Christmas feeling.”