Performances in Riverside & Rancho Cucamonga
By Susan Gordon
Inland Empire – Inland Pacific Ballet, returns with its spectacular production of The Nutcracker, the classic holiday story danced to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Critically acclaimed Inland Pacific Ballet (IPB) brings The Nutcracker to life with dazzling sets complete with falling snow, an antique original Albany Flyer One Horse Open Sleigh, a 40-foot Chinese Dragon, beautiful costumes handmade in-house at IPB’s costume department, and a cast of 80 dancers. New to this year’s production is a completely re-choreographed Snow Scene for an expanded cast of 20 and a brand new lighting design. IPB’s Nutcracker has four performances left this holiday at Riverside’s Fox Performing Arts Center and Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga.
This season’s cast features brilliant young talent from the region, most notably Emily Baggarly, and Lauren Collett alternating in the role of Clara. Both Emily and Lauren continue to receive their training at the IPB Academy. Both attended prestigious Summer Intensive programs in New York City – Emily at American Ballet Theatre and Lauren at New York City Ballet. IPB Principal Dancer, the exquisite Meilu Zhai of Montclair, will reign over the Kingdom of Sweets as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Meilu is a former dancer with the National Ballet of China and returns for her fourth season with IPB. Also returning is IPB Principal Dancer Cameron Schwanz of Corona, who will dance as the Cavalier and the Nutcracker. Cameron is a thrilling dancer who returned to southern California three years ago to join IPB as the Beast for its premiere of Beauty and the Beast. He previously danced with Texas Ballet Theater, Ballet Pacifica/Festival Ballet Theater, Los Angeles Ballet, and Ballet San Jose. IPB Principal Dancer Jonathan Sharp as Drosselmeyer, returns for a seventh season with IPB and brings an extensive resume of dancing professionally with the Boston and Pennsylvania Ballet companies, and appearances in original casts of five Broadway shows. Jonathan is currently appearing in San Diego’s Old Globe production of In Your Arms.
This annual holiday favorite tells the story of a young girl named Clara who receives a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve, and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of the Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. A fantastic dream with battling mice, dancing snowflakes, waltzing flowers, and the delightful Sugar Plum Fairy stir the imagination. Meet the cast after the performance for photos and autographs. A dazzling holiday tradition for the entire family, see it again or for the first time and be swept away in a winter wonderland.
“We are thrilled to again take our wonderful production on tour to four beautiful southern California theaters. As always, The Nutcracker showcases our key Company Principals and Soloists who are in top form,” says Artistic Director Victoria Koenig. “Cameron Schwanz (Cavalier) and Meilu Zhai (Sugar Plum Fairy) are extraordinary. They really honed their partnership in Beauty and the Beast last spring and are a joy to watch. We look forward each year to enhancing the show to surprise our audiences and this year is no exception. We’re re-choreographing the Snow Scene for 20 dancers, which is fun and inspiring for the dancers, and I think will make for an exciting new addition. We also have a brand new lighting design. Our fans who return year after year really look forward to these fun changes to the choreography and production values.”
IPB is a professional ballet company based in the Inland Empire of Southern California since 1994. The Company is committed to producing exquisitely staged productions of full-length classic story ballets as well as presenting the best in contemporary choreography. Their large studio facility in Montclair also includes in-house costume and scenic departments. In addition, through creative marketing and an extensive Educational Outreach Program, IPB strives to introduce new audiences to the magic of ballet, and to make the experience more available and accessible to all. For students pre-school through grade 12 enrolled in public, private and home schools, IPB offers “A Young Person’s Guide to the Ballet,” connecting the arts to learning through music and movement with five educational outreach performances scheduled for The Nutcracker. The Company is also committed to the nurturing of new talent and provides an essential training ground for serious young dancers.
Choreography for The Nutcracker is by Laurence Blake and Victoria Koenig; Scenic Design by Nancy Seruto and Daniel C. Nyiri; Costume Design by Jeanne Nolden; Brand new Lighting Design by Joseph Walls; and Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
IPBs Founders/Artistic Directors/Choreographers Victoria Koenig and Kevin Myers, are southern California natives who bring a wealth of experience to their visionary leadership of this young Company. Over the past 21 years they have built IPB into the premiere ballet company and a key creative force in the region, enjoying critical acclaim while performing the largest and most varied repertoire in the area. Victoria Koenig is a native of Los Angeles now residing in Claremont. After many years as a professional dancer, and extensive international travel as a guest artist and teacher, Ms. Koenig returned to southern California and has become a shaping force in the region’s dance community. She co-founded the Los Angeles Chamber Ballet, was on the faculty of the Stanley Holden Dance Center, and served on the dance faculty of California State University, Long Beach. Ms. Koenig has brought her many years of professional experience to the Inland Valley, one of the fastest growing cultural assets in southern California and is also on the dance faculty at Pomona College. Kevin Myers is a native of Riverside, California. He danced with the Houston Ballet in solo roles in the classic repertoire including Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty and in work created for him by Houston Ballet’s renowned Artistic Director, Ben Stevenson. Later as soloist with the Los Angeles Ballet, he danced principal roles in a variety of Balanchine ballets, including Tarantella and Jewels. As a Co-Founder and Associate Director of Inland Pacific Ballet and of the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy, Mr. Myers is fulfilling a dream of widening the opportunities for the young people of the Inland Empire to experience the art of ballet and providing local talent with the chance to pursue a career in the field.
Performances of The Nutcracker take place at the Lewis Family Playhouse, 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739, Friday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19 at 2pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday, the 20th at 2pm. Tickets start at $38 with senior/child/group discounts available. For more information and tickets, please go to IPBALLET.org.