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Local Dancers Perform In 'The Nutcracker'

FRESNO – The Valley Performing Arts Council, in partnership with Fresno Grand Opera, will bring to life a magical holiday tradition with its presentation of “The Nutcracker” at two performances on Thanksgiving weekend.

The ballet will be performed Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, at 1 p.m. at William Saroyan Theatre in Fresno, and will feature 37 professional dancers from Fresno Ballet Theatre and the nationally acclaimed Sacramento Ballet, along with 115 student dancers and performers from 16 area cities.

Ticket holders can participate in Sugar Plum Story Time and visit the Kingdom of Sweet Café and The Nutcracker Boutique starting at noon prior to both performances.

“‘The Nutcracker’ is often a performance that gets people acquainted with ballet,” explained Yukari Thiesen, artistic director. “It’s audience friendly and very unusual in that it includes so many children. I can’t think of another classical ballet that uses children this much, and in that way it’s very special.”

In addition to young ballet students from dance studios throughout the Valley, “The Nutcracker” will include 30 children from Kings River Elementary School in Tulare County who participate in VPAC’s public school program.

Mountain area performers include Rebecca Casey from Oakhurst, who attends Butterfly Dance School in Mariposa; Tara Neill, also from Oakhurst, who attends Velocity Dance Studio, Oakhurst, and Northwest Studio for Ballet, Fresno; and Elseana Skowronski from Ahwanee. She attends Velocity Dance Studio, Oakhurst, Northwest Studio for Ballet, Fresno, and The Dance Studio of Fresno II.

“We wanted to share this incredible experience and extend it to children who normally don’t have such an opportunity,” Thiesen said. “Part of VPAC’s mission is to ensure that the arts have a social impact through efforts like our public school program, as well inviting 1,000 children who would otherwise not be exposed to the performing arts to see ‘The Nutcracker’ every year.”

In the spring, VPAC will present the ballet “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and will host outreach performances for more than 4,000 school children.

This year’s “Nutcracker” performance features Kennedy Silva-Costa, 10, of Clovis, dancing the role of “Clara.” A dancer since age 3, Silva-Costa attends Clovis Academy of Dance and Severance Ballet Conservatory. She calls dancing as Clara “a dream come true.”

Dancing the role of “Fritz” is 11-year-old Jillian Rogers from the Kings Dance Center in Hanford.

“For children who are coming to see ‘The Nutcracker’ or are performing in it, it’s magical and they never get tired of it,” Thiesen described. “The spirit of this special ballet touches children and represents the full experience of the arts. For the performers, it’s gathering to rehearse and the on-stage and backstage experience. They become very close to each other. For the children in the audience, it represents the whole performing arts experience, from dressing up to attend to what’s happening in the lobby and the performance itself.”

“The Nutcracker” premiered in 1892 and is based on “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice,” by E.T.A. Hoffman. The two-act ballet tells the story of German girl, Clara, who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King when she falls asleep following a lively family Christmas party.

An amazing cast of dancers literally brings Clara’s story to life against Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score and scenery.

Tickets to the three performances are available online at, by calling 559-442-5699, or at the Fresno Convention Center Box Office, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $29.50 to $69.50 for adults. Tickets for children 12 and under are $29.50.

VPAC’s performances of “The Nutcracker” are sponsored by The Fresno Bee, the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, the Bonner Family Foundation, ABC30 and KMPH FOX 26.

About Valley Performing Arts Council:

Established in 1997, VPAC’s mission is to expose children to the beauty, wisdom and truth that the classical arts impart and to enable them to share this cultural knowledge with future generations. VPAC works to cultivate classical performing arts by bringing professional ballet to Fresno in order to expose local dancers and school children to a high caliber of ballet and classical music, thus creating a greater understanding of the classical performing arts. To date, VPAC has exposed more than 110,000 students in 23 school districts throughout the Valley to numerous ballet, theater and musical performances.

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