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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Anaheim Ballet dancers ready to perform ‘The Nutcracker’ – Orange County Register

For years, Anaheim Ballet has marked the holiday season with its performance of “The Nutcracker.”

More than 50 dancers will bring the classic story to life this weekend in Anaheim before taking their production on its annual tour to Nevada where they appear at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort.

But the tradition started with resistance, said Lawrence Rosenberg, who directs the ballet company, its school and its program with his wife, Sarma Lapenieks Rosenberg. Lapenieks Rosenberg, who is the resident choreographer, refused to have the company do yet another “Nutcracker” and resisted for a long time Rosenberg said.

But students wanted to dance the classic and after much research into the original Tchaikovsky story, Rosenberg said she designed a version of the production that speaks to the intent of the composer and offers much more depth for many of the characters.

For example, the production has infused backstories for many of the nameless guests in the party scene, and this year adds a wounded soldier in a Victorian-era wheelchair with his attending nurse. One of the dancers will portray the soldier, which is a tribute to a former dancer with the company who sustained a non-dance-related life-altering injury.

Having the roles have more background story gives the dancers more to work with in their performances, Rosenberg said. “It gives them voice, that they each have a voice in the production. It’s not generic.”

Along with their dance instruction, the performers also get training from a Hollywood actor, which helps flesh out their presence on stage, Rosenberg said.

The show features children who are part of the Anaheim Ballet School, seasonal dancers with the ballet company and even an 81-year-old who for years has played the grandfather in the party scene.

The company is the resident ballet of Anaheim and it offers outreach programs in the community, including Step Up!, an after-school community program that teaches dance but also lessons for life, Rosenberg said, adding the company’s slogan is “Anaheim Ballet, more than dance.”

“We want audiences to be inspired, to take something away,” he said of “The Nutcracker” performances. “Maybe that would be just a little bit of inspiration, which is more than dance.”

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