ALAMEDA TRADITIONS: The magic of The Nutcracker

ALAMEDA TRADITIONS: The magic of The Nutcracker

Michele Ellson

Photos by Michele Ellson. Click for slideshow.

Alamedans have been experiencing the magic of The Nutcracker right here on the Island since 2005, when Alameda Civic Ballet debuted its first full production of the Christmas classic at Kofman Auditorium. The show instantly became an Alameda tradition. Every year since then, dozens of dancers – from preschoolers to seniors – have worked through months of rehearsals with ACB Artistic Director and founder Abra Rudisill in order to deliver a perfect dose of holiday magic the thousands of people who see the show have come to expect.

This year’s show - Alameda Civic Ballet's eighth annual - features a cast of 166 dancers, including dozens of locals and professionals who handle some of the main roles (Rudisill herself had a long professional career, capped by two decades as principal ballerina and ballet mistress for Oakland Ballet). The professional cast includes Ethan and Nikki White, who performed in 2010 and were finalists on Paula Abdul's "Live to Dance," as the Snow Queen and King; Mayo Sugano, ballet mistress and principal dancer for the Diablo Ballet, as the Sugar Plum Fairy; and Matthew Linzer, a Juilliard graduate who has danced with the Smuin, Diablo and Oakland ballet companies, as the Sugar Plum Cavalier.

This year's Nutcracker prince, Justin Modeliste, is a junior at Alameda High School while the role of Clara was captured by Yingru Huang, an eighth grader at Lincoln Middle School. The show's lush, colorful costumes were designed by local Realtor Denise Brady, who helped Rudisill found the Alameda company.

This past weekend The Alamedan got a behind-the-scenes look at some of the dancers’ final preparations for this year’s performances – exacting preparations that saw Rudisill and "an army" of dedicated parent volunteers tucking in young dancers’ “spaghetti strings,” making last-minute alterations and setting sparkling costumes and tiaras just so as Rudisill tended to the dancers’ positioning and form. Our photos document final studio rehearsals for dozens of miniature mice, sparkling snowflakes, party boys, young Clara and the Nutcracker prince himself.

Performances are at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December 16 at Kofman Auditorium, 2200 Central Avenue. Tickets and information are available on the Alameda Civic Ballet's Nutcracker website.