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.