More than 600 fourth grade students sat in awe Wednesday morning as they watched the Santa Clarita Ballet put on a special performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.
The classical presentation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s story featured guest professionals and company dancers as part of the ballet’s annual Student Outreach Program to educate young students about the arts.
“This outreach program that we do is a tradition,” said Corinne Glover, executive director of the Santa Clarita Ballet Academy. “It’s a program that we love doing.”
According to Glover, the relationship between the ballet and the Newhall School District began in 2000 and was created by a city pilot grant called “Arts in the Classroom, Classical Dance.”
“It was generated originally from an arts grant from the city,” Glover said. “Now we have a tradition and established relationship with the Newhall School District.”
Over the years the program was funded by grant money from other sources and funding from within the Newhall School District.
Now, the program has expanded to include fourth grade students in the Saugus Union School District, the Sulphur Springs School District, charter schools, private schools and home school programs. The expansion allows other students to be informed of the arts and inspired by the high-caliber dances.
“Our dancers are young students who are simply very highly accomplished at what they do,” Glover, said. “It’s nice for young children to be inspired by other young children that are dancing at a very high level.”
By the end of the two student outreach performances Wednesday and Thursday, nearly 1,500 fourth grade students will experience the traditional story, characters, costumes and music of “The Nutcracker”
“It’s nice they get to do something they might not be able to do with their family and they get to see the ballet,” said Erin Juodvalkis, fourth grade teacher at Stevenson Ranch Elementary. “They’re intrigued the whole time. It gets them in the holiday spirit.”
Fellow fourth grade teacher Karen Finley said the ballet provides the schools with an information packet and a teaching box so each class can learn more about the story, characters and music of the performance before arrive at the Performing Arts Center.
“We saw a little bit of it in class before,” fourth grade Stevenson Ranch student Anika Abhiamkar, 9, said.
Finley, whose daughter was once part of the performance, still enjoys attending the performance with her students each year.
“It never gets old and I still come and see it every year,” Finley said. “It’s fun to see and experience it with the kids. It’s exciting to share this with them.”
Many students were amazed by the movements of the performers as well as the special effects and lighting used on the stage.
“I like to watch the dancers,” fourth grade Stevenson Ranch student Natalie Gutierrez, 9, said. “My favorite part is Clara (named Marie in Hoffman’s story) and the party girls.”
For Glover, the goal is to always present shows that continually impress audiences of all ages.
“Our Nutcrackers have been extremely high-level performances for a lot of years,” Glover said. “We are able to set on them (the dancers) very sophisticated and mature choreography so we can deliver a high-caliber performance back to the community.”
General admissions tickets for “The Nutcracker” are on sale now through the Santa Clarita Ballet office. The ballet will hold shows Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
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