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'Nutcracker': A look at Westside School of Ballet's production

It's the busy season for dance.

Ballet schools, local companies and touring troupes present variations of "The Nutcracker" in late November and December. Some productions are fully staged, while others are excerpts.

The classic ballet to Tchaikovsky's beloved music is more than a holiday mainstay. It's populated with an abundance of roles, giving stage time to young and eager dancers with visions of becoming the ultimate ballerina, the Sugar Plum Fairy.

In Santa Monica, the Westside School of Ballet is celebrating the 40th-anniversary production of its "Nutcracker." This year, the school's dancers will be accompanied by a live orchestra, the Santa Monica College Symphony.

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The two sold-out performances next weekend at the Broad Stage team the college musicians with Westside, a pre-professional student company that gives young dancers the opportunity to advance and prepare for careers in ballet.

This "Nutcracker" features original choreography by the school's founder, the late Yvonne Mounsey, who was a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet and who danced in George Balanchine's "Nutcracker."

For her school, Mounsey created two scenes, Peppermint Candy and Crystal Bells, to give even more opportunities for her young charges. Martine Harley, Westside's artistic director, was a former student of Mounsey's.

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Lucia Connolly, 15, will be featured as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Connolly has danced with Westside for 11 years and has previously appeared as Clara, Lead Candy, Center Mirliton, Snow Queen, Lead Spanish and Dew Drop.

"To me, Sugar Plum is the ultimate test," Connolly says.

"Can Sugar Plum move the audience enough to believe that they really have been transported to some bizarre land where candies dance? That is a challenge I am greatly looking forward to."

Westside has received more than $85,000 in public and private donations to support its education and community outreach initiatives.

cheryl.guerrero@latimes.com

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