Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Dancers who can act get the part

Joyce Rudolph

When selecting dancers for lead roles, Jill Sanzo looks for a strong

acting ability during auditions.

“We look for a certain childlike quality of enthrallment,


wonderment, which sometimes is hard to find with children these days.

They grow up too fast,” she said.

Two young dancers, Alyssa Cuervo of La Canada Flintridge and

Arielle Poblador of Los Angeles, displayed that quality, and they


share the role of Clara for this year’s Ballet of the Foothills

production of “The Nutcracker” this weekend at The Alex Theatre.

Sanzo is the ballet company’s executive director. It is the

4-year-old company of her Ballet Petite dance studio, which has been

in La Canada Flintridge since 1956. Sanzo, who lives in Burbank, has

owned the studio since 1981.

This year’s “Nutcracker” features more than 60 children from La

Canada Flintridge, Glendale, Montrose, La Crescenta, Pasadena and Los



There are also a lot of adult dancers performing, many of whom are

parents of the children in the show, she said.

Brennan Murphy of Pasadena, who plays the Nutcracker, is joined in

the show by his parents and brother.

The Nutcracker in this version, Sanzo said, is Clara’s brother,

instead of her love interest, the Nutcracker Prince.

“It’s not a coming-of-age theme with the prince, it’s more about


the childlike relationship between brother and sister,” she said.

“She comes to the rescue of her brother. It relates love between


In addition to the weekend performances, schools throughout the

area have been invited to attend a special performance on Monday at a

discount price. Schools use the event as a field trip, Sanzo said.