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‘A Very Chico Nutcracker’ opens Thursday

Dancers share what the performance means to them
Grace Stark
Angeline Stansbury, (Ashlyn Myers), dances with the Nutcracker Prince (Chasen Greenwood).

The Nutcracker” is a classic Christmas story told through dance around the world. This holiday season, Chico Community Ballet will be performing “A Very Chico Nutcracker,” a spin on the original story including Chico history and new elements.

Originally based on a children’s fairy tale by German author Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, the ballet was written and orchestrated by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Angeline holds the nutcracker during the Christmas party.
Angeline holds the nutcracker during the Christmas party. Photo: Grace Stark

Tchaikovsky’s original “The Nutcracker” tells the story of Clara Stahlbaum, who receives a wooden nutcracker from her toy-making godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, on Christmas Eve at her family’s Christmas party.

The party scene is full of dancing children and performing dolls, and is often depicted with humor and acting from all roles. As the night ends, Clara falls asleep and awakens to find that her family’s toy wooden soldiers and the nutcracker have to come to life.

Mice surround Angeline while she sleeps holding the Nutcracker.
Mice surround Angeline while she sleeps holding the Nutcracker. Photo: Grace Stark

The Nutcracker Prince and his soldiers face off against the Mouse King and his army. After his defeat, Clara and her now-human prince are transported to a winter wonderland where dancing snowflakes and the Snow Queen lead them to the Land of Sweets.

In the second act, Clara and the prince are greeted by sweets from around the world who perform for them. The sweets most commonly depicted in “The Nutcracker” are Spanish chocolate, Arabian coffee, Chinese tea, Russian candy canes and French marzipan.

The Land of Sweets comes to a close with performances of a final waltz of the flowers with the Dew Drop Fairy, followed by the Sugar Plum Fairy’s famous variation, a solo performed by the character. 

The sweets issue Clara farewell and the Nutcracker Prince leads her away from the Land of Sweets. Clara awakens from her dream in her home holding her beloved Nutcracker.

Chico Community Ballet will be performing its adaptation of “The Nutcracker” with elements from Chico’s rich history and the community. Artistic Director Deborah Jorritsma is one of the creative minds behind “A Very Chico Nutcracker’s” spin on the Christmas story.

The soldier doll, played by Thomas Burks, performs for the Christmas party guest.
The soldier doll, played by Thomas Burks, performs for the Christmas party guest. Photo: Grace Stark

This version of the ballet is based on Chico’s Stansbury family. The ballet will follow Angeline Stansbury, Dr. Oscar Stansbury’s daughter, as the main character. Angeline will be played by 15-year-old Ashlyn Meyers, a student at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences.

“I’ve gotten a lot of great opportunities from this and I’m so happy that I was chosen to be in this role because I really feel like I’ve had to step up … I’m loving it so far and I can’t wait to perform with all my friends,” Meyers said.

To incorporate more Chico elements in the ballet, the performance will include dancing almond blossoms and waltzing poppies. 

“I took elements of our North State that are very special to me, like I love the wildflowers in the spring, even though it’s a Christmas ballet,” Jorritsma said.

Many dancers will be performing several roles, including the waltzing poppies and almond blossoms. The Almond Blossom King will be played by 17-year-old Thomas Burks.

Burks said that he is excited to perform in his first performance of the recital and to be taking on a large role in the ballet. He will also be performing as a soldier doll in the party scene and the Russian divertissement.

Performing as an almond blossom, waltzing poppy and French shepherdess is 17-year-old Annie Gonzalez.

“I love ‘The Nutcracker.’ I just think it’s a really magical ballet and I love the music to it. It’s just beautiful. And it’s been a great year so I’m very excited,” Gonzalez said.

Dancing almond blossoms follow the battle scene.
Dancing almond blossoms follow the battle scene. Photo: Grace Stark

The cast of the performance consists of about 90 people ranging from 5 to 19, with adult roles played by Chico community members. Action News Now anchor and producer Linda Watkins-Bennett and Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey will be featured in the performance as well.

Dorristma said that putting on “A Very Chico Nutcracker” is a long process consisting of auditions, choreographing, rehearsing and making props and costumes. 

Nyla Cox, 13-years-old, said that her favorite part of ”The Nutcracker” is rehearsing during tech week, where dancers perform full run-throughs in costume at the theater.

Butte College student Hope Mathers said that the performance has brought her and her fellow dancers closer to one another.                  

“I like ‘The Nutcracker’ because it’s kind of like a whole big community and every time we do Nutcracker, I always feel welcomed and happy because everyone’s really close to each other and it’s just very magical,” Mathers said.

The Spanish Doll, played by Isabella Naiman, performs during the party scene.
The Spanish Doll, played by Isabella Naiman, performs during the party scene. Photo: Grace Stark

Willow Gonzales, Isabel Quinones and Isabella Naiman will also be performing as almond blossoms and other roles. The dancers agreed that between the music, the story and the choreography, “A Very Chico Nutcracker” is an essential part of the holiday season.

“Nutcracker is so special to me because I think it’s the most important part of the Christmas season and the Christmas spirit,” Naiman said. “There’s so many new elements every year to ‘The Nutcracker’ as we do it a lot. But it’s so magical in its own way every year.”

“A Very Chico Nutcracker: opens at Laxson Auditorium on Thursday with performances through the weekend. Tickets are on sale now with limited seating.


Grace Stark can be reached at [email protected].




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About the Contributor
Grace Stark
Grace Stark, News Editor
Grace Stark is a second-year majoring in journalism, news. She is from Loomis, a small town outside of Sacramento. This is her second semester on The Orion and she is excited to pursue her interests in writing and reporting as the news editor. Outside of school, Grace enjoys thrifting, reading, drawing and spending time with friends. She also has a small business online called Rings by Grace where she sells handmade spoon rings.

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