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An on pointe performance

“The Nutcracker” presentation put on for local students

Posted: December 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Dancers from the Santa Clarita Ballet Company perform "The Nutcracker" to an audience of fourth graders from the Newhall, Castaic Union, and Sulphur Springs School districts for a special showing at College of the Canyons on Thursday. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo.

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Youngsters from three Santa Clarita Valley school districts got a chance to “Ooooohhhh” and “Aaaahhh” Thursday over a special production of “The Nutcracker” during the annual Santa Clarita Ballet Company student outreach to public school fourth graders.

The ballet’s performance of the Christmas classic at College of the Canyons’ Performing Arts Center precedes its weekend public production of “The Nutcracker,” an annual event that provides many Santa Clarita Valley kids with their first glimpse of a ballet production, said Mary K. Judy, outreach coordinator for the Santa Clarita Ballet Company.

“They absolutely love it,” Judy said. Fourth-graders from three Newhall, one Castaic Union and one Sulphur Springs school district schools attended Thursday’s performance.

“Fourth-graders are old enough to sit through the performance. They’re not too old and they’re not too young,” she said.

The student outreach, which has been held annually for 13 years, has the goal of introducing performing arts and classical music to youngsters, organizers said. The Santa Clarita Ballet Company provides participating schools with a ballet box that includes a story book, synopsis, a dancer’s pointe shoe and a men’s ballet shoe for teachers to prepare their students for the production.

The Santa Clarita Ballet Company was established in the valley in 1995 following the Northridge earthquake, said Executive Director Corinne Glover. Limited space and resources hampered the group at first, but fundraising events and good grant writers have made things better, she said.

Practicing at Valencia High School during the late 1990s, she recalled, “the Sugar Plum would do her turns and fall over in the first row.” The company has since found larger facilities for practices.

The majority of the dancers in the company are grade school- to high school-aged students, said Carol Guidry, the company’s choreographer, who joined two years after the ballet was founded.

“It’s very fulfilling,” she said of working with young dancers. “They’re sponges. You can really make an impact on them.” she said.

“Trained dancers are open to little corrections,” she said of working with older dancers. “When they’re professionals, they don’t want people changing their techniques.”

The company does, however, hire professional ballet dancers for the lead roles in its annual “The Nutcracker” production.

The younger dancers pour their lives into the ballet company, Guidry said.

Sugar Plum alternate and Valencia High School student Sidney Haefs said she has four-hour rehearsals every Friday and Saturday and longer ones at time.

“I can’t hang out with my friends a lot or go to senior activities like homecoming, school dances, and football games,” she said.

“This is what I want to do when I graduate, so it’s worth it. It pays off at the end when we dance in the shows.”


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