Photos by P.J. Sawyer
TEMPLETON – North County has its traditions this time of year: Children list their wants and wishes on Santa’s lap, pine trees are lit up as the sun goes down and townsfolk dress their homes with joyful wreaths and cheerful lights. But for 21 years strong, the most wonderful tradition also decorates the hearts of the young and old, as the Nutcracker Ballet returns once more to North County. This weekend the public is invited to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet at the Templeton Performing Arts Center with guest talents, returning dancers, and a classic story told in dance.
“It’s always been my dream to be Clara,” said Emaly Bousman, 13, of Trinity Lutheran School, who sees her dream come true as she stars as Clara in this year’s performance. This is her sixth year dancing in the Nutcracker and she said she can’t wait for the holidays each and every year to bring her favorite dance back each season.
“It’s cool to see the inspiration and then turn into the inspiration,” the young talent said.
Gabriella Trevisan will will star as the Sugar Plum Fairy this year. She will be the one dressed in the delicate pink-toned costume with the layered handkerchief tutu, who rules the Land of Sweets. Trevisan has been performing the Nutcracker for eight years and has dreamt of the role of the Sugar Plum since her very first year.
The ballet, sponsored by the North County Dance and Performing Arts Foundation, has a long history in North County. According to the artistic director and owner of Class Act Dance in Paso Robles, Cheryle Armstrong, the rich tradition includes backdrops and sets that were painted by artists Kelly Blythe and Ken Fuller 20 years ago.
Fun Fact: before the big earthquake the Nutcracker used to be performed at Flamson Middle School.
“Some of the pieces of the choreography I keep the same because it’s a tradition of the dancers to look up to, doing a particular role that may be a difficult piece of choreography, so they’re striving to meet those challenges,” Armstrong said.
She brought in Lisa Deyo as a guest choreographer this year, as she does every year, to bring in the new and fresh dance moves. This time around, Deyo created the ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and ‘Waltz of the Snowflakes.’
“It’s always new and exciting because the dancers are in different roles,” said Armstrong, whose Class Act dancers make up most of the cast and have been training for their roles for months at the Class Act studio in Paso. Class Act began as a nonprofit with a goal to put on productions of “pre-professional” distinction, Armstrong said. “We want to be able to give the dancers the caliber of experience they normally wouldn’t get in a town this size.”
16-year-old Katie Moffatt of Templeton High School, who dances the Snow Queen role, has been performing the Nutcracker for five years. As she welcomes Clara and the Prince into her glistening kingdom she has been instructed to get into the queen mindset.
“I think of how I would feel if I was going somewhere for the first time — how I would want someone to welcome me — kind of like the ‘Welcoming Committee,’” she said. Moffatt laughed when asked if she smiles when she dances. How much does she smile?
“A lot!” Moffatt said.
Many of the dancers play several roles. Moffatt will also dance the Arabian Queen, Mirliton and a Dew Drop.
Armstrong was especially excited to announce that a special guest this year, Alexander Alguero of Barcelona, Spain will be performing as the Cavalier. Alguero, a professional dancer, began dancing at age 20 after being discovered on the street as break dancer by internationally renowned Spanish ballet teacher, the late Ion Beitia. Alguero went on to study the Balanchine technique under Beitia’s wing, and has spent the past 25 years performing all over the world. He happened to be visiting friend and Nutcracker guest choreographer Lisa Deyo in North County when Armstrong scouted him for the part.
“I’m happy to join,” Alguero said. “You’ve got my holidays,” he added with a laugh. He was planning to visit Deyo for a vacation before he was put to work teaching classes at Class Act, as well as performing in the Nutcracker. “For me, ballet and dance is the most beautiful thing in my life. So I’m happy,” the Barcelona dancer said.
Performing as the Prince will be Koby Wescom, 16, of Templeton High School, who will be in his seventh year dancing in the Nutrcracker. This is his second year starring as the Prince.
“The Prince walks Clara through the story line,” and a smile revealed Wescom’s braces when he said. “It’s a fun role to play because of the battle scene.” To train for the role of the Prince, Wescom trained a little more than 24-hours per week, six days a week.
The children performing start at age 6 from schools across North County and will be playing such parts as Bon Bons and Mini Soldiers. Many of them will grow up with this piece, training at Class Act and, developing their stage presence – and maybe one day will manifest their dreams as Emaly Bousman did: to star as Clara.
As a special treat, a couple of prominent medical doctors from the community will be in this year’s Nutcracker party scene. Dr. Mark Kowall, local orthopedic surgeon, will perform in front of the sparkling Christmas tree as Mr. Stahlbaum, and his wife Margie Kowall will take the role of ‘Aunt.’ Their 13-year-old daughter, Katie Kowall, will be dancing as Dew Drop, as her fifth year dancing the Nutcracker. In past years Katie Kowall has danced the parts of Chef, Chinese and Girl Cousin, among others, and she aspires one day to dance as Lead Rat and Clara’s Friend.
Doctor Shannon Berry, an internist at Twin Cities will play ‘Aunt’ as well, as her daughter Portia will be dancing her third Nutcracker this year.
“Their kids are involved, and because their kids spend so much time in the production, they said, ‘well we want to be able to be with our kids,’ so that’s what they did,” Armstrong explained.
The group already debuted the Nutcracker for students in an open dress rehearsal last night. The first performance will be tonight, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m., with matinee performances at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10. Evening performances continue at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 at the Templeton Performing Arts Center at Templeton High School at 1200 Main Street, Templeton.
Tickets will be on sale at Class Act Dance, 2580 Spring Street, Paso Robles, online at brownpapertickets.com, or at the door. Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $10 for students.
You may reach Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected] for questions and/or feedback.