Experiencing the The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker is a magical holiday tradition treasured by generations of families. Guests of all ages leave their troubles behind and embrace the spirit of the holiday as they walk through drifting snowflakes into the beautifully decorated lobby of the War Memorial Opera House beginning opening night tomorrow.
Whether they are dancing on stage or dressed in their finest and propped up on seat risers in the audience, children are an integral part of the magic of the Nutcracker. Carmela Mayo is a 15 year old dancer from the Bay Area and a level 7 student in her 5th year at the SF Ballet School. She gives us some insight into the SF Ballet’s Nutcracker from her perspective: “I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember—it became serious when I joined the SF Ballet School at age 11. I would love to become a professional dancer and do college online at the same time—that would be ideal.” She expects to perform in about half of the shows this year and rehearses for 2-3 hours after school.
Mayo was cast as a flower in this year’s production. “Flower is definitely my favorite role so far—I’ve been a butterfly and a dragonfly too. One day, some of the Company ballet masters came into class to observe. Next thing I knew, there was a posting of Nutcracker roles with some of us from Level 7 listed.” Dancing with SF Ballet school affords many learning opportunities that can be applied to life outside the stage. “One of the things I always remember from my teacher Tina LeBlanc is to dance big, even though I’m a small person, I always try to fill up the stage.” To the many children who leave the Nutcracker with visions of being a ballerina, she says “Go for it if you have the chance—it’s a really amazing opportunity!”
The six family performances offer special treats and opportunities for children. You will want to get to the Opera House early on these dates as they are very popular and lines form before the door opens. The first 500 children under the age of 12 receive a gift at the door and Nutcracker characters are available to take photos one hour before curtain. Complimentary beverages and treats are served at intermission on these performances as well.
To help children get the most of their Nutcracker experience, try the Nutcracker Storybook app available in the Google Play! and the iPhone App Store. The interactive storybook is based on the SF Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker and is designed for children 6-10 and their families. Features include “Listen to Story” or “Read it Myself” modes, playful animations on tap, audio clips of score accompany each scene, behind the scenes photos and videos as well as basic ballet positions and simple choreography.