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March 20, 2023

Ballet theater filming virtual ‘Nutcracker’ performance

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—For years, the annual “Nutcracker, Clara’s Dream” was a winter holiday staple put on by the Santa Cruz Ballet Theater. With their own take of Tchaivovsky’s ballet, that was typically staged at the Santa Cruz Civic, Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater and the Mello Center in Watsonville, something new is in the air.

The ongoing pandemic has shaken things up this season, but the show is still in the works, according to Artistic Director Diane Cypher. She said an alumni-driven film is being brewed up to replace the stage version and will be aired on the TV screen and possibly at an area theater.

“Covid has been difficult, as we all know,” Cypher said. “We thought that the film would be a way of giving back to local sponsors and as a good project to keep our dancers motivated.” 

Featuring 44 dancers and four “character artists,” the choreography by alumna Flora Chatwin tells the story of “Clara’s Dream.” This year various scenes have been filmed on locations around Santa Cruz featuring SCBT, including longtime sponsors of SCBT and local landmarks such as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. The film will be directed by alumna Georgina Wilson. The third alumna, Alicia Houser, rounds out the creative team with directing rehearsals, filming rehearsals, helping direct the dancers on set, scouting locations, photography and more. 

“SCBT is lucky to have such a Dream Team working on our holiday offering this season,” SCBT organizers said. “

Wilson, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with a BFA in dance, embarked on a freelance career which took her to the U.K. After relocating to California, Wilson contacted SCBT after Covid hit and mentioned she was interested in filmmaking; her interest sparked the idea for the “Nutcracker” film. 

JOYFUL ENTERTAINMENT Bassoonists Amy Duxbury and Gail Selburn, are part of the orchestra during the Battle Scene. —photo courtesy Action Studios

Jace Hardwick started his own production company in the LA area and his Action Studios crew will provide the cinematography. Filmography will include drone footage at West Cliff Drive and a local Christmas tree farm. 

Chatwin, a recent graduate, plans to pursue a dance degree at the UC Irvine. 

Music Director Pamela Martin conducts the score, which was recorded at last year’s performance at the Civic Auditorium by Devi Pride. Composer and audio expert Jerome Begin arranged and “cleaned up” the recording from last year at the Civic and made the sound track suitable for the movie.

“Our 2019 orchestra was phenomenal and we are thrilled that the score of our film is played by these wonderful musicians,” Cypher said. “Many of them have also volunteered to be featured visually in the movie, adding an extra layer of artistry to the product. Be ready for something different than our normal production, in almost every way.”

SCBT was founded in 1982. 

“We all need something fun right now, and we thought that a family could stream this into their living room and be entertained with something joyful for 40 minutes,” Cypher said.

For information on “Nutcracker, Clara’s Dream” go here.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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