The dance tradition of the Russian Ballet Russe is the inspiration
for the Media City Ballet’s two performances of “The Nutcracker”
Sunday at The Alex Theatre in Glendale.
Natasha Middleton, artistic director of the Burbank company, is
creating the choreography based on the principles of the legendary
Ballet Russe de Serge Diaghilev. Middleton’s grandmother, Elena
Wortova, was a soloist in the original Ballet Russe while Middleton’s
father, Andrei Tremaine, was a principal dancer with the Ballet Russe
de Monte Carlo.
The Ballet Russe style, Middleton said, is what was designed in
the early 1900s in Russia, where the story was played out physically.
Dancers will act out every scene for this Sunday’s performances.
The story of “The Nutcracker” is about young Clara, who on
Christmas Eve is given a Nutcracker doll by her godfather, Dr.
Drosselmeyer. During the family’s Christmas party, Clara’s brother
breaks the doll. After Clara goes to sleep, Dr. Drosselmeyer fixes
the Nutcracker and magically brings him to life. Clara dreams that an
army of mice attacks her and the Nutcracker. When the Mouse King
stuns the Nutcracker, Clara comes to his rescue. The Nutcracker
becomes a prince and takes Clara on a magical trip to the Land of
Sweets and the Palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Middleton has drawn on her training as a prima ballerina for her
father’s ballet company, Pacific Ballet Theatre, in which she had
played the role of Clara.
“My father told me Clara was imaginative and intelligent,” she
said. “She was able to play the child within us all who wants to be
very grown up so she has to make choices at her party and in her
When Drosselmeyer unwraps a large doll at the party for
entertaining the guests, Clara is disappointed she doesn’t get to
keep the doll. But then Drosselmeyer presents her with the Nutcracker
and she is charmed by it, but doesn’t realize how special it is until
After her brother breaks the Nutcracker, Clara must accept that it
And when the mice army is attacking her, she has to make a choice
and stand up to the Mouse King to protect her beloved Nutcracker.
The role of Clara is played by Alexandra Stern, who Middleton said
is older than the character but her own life experiences help her
better relate Clara’s feelings.
“Dancers need to use 100% of their body to tell a story starting
with their facial expressions,” Middleton said. “We keep looking to
her for answers because her expression tells the story.”
Working with Middleton coaching the principals and soloists are
Ruben Tonoyan, formerly with the Kirov Ballet; Middleton’s father,
Tremaine; and Paul Maure, formerly of the Grand Ballet de Monte
Returning this year is Ellen Rosa who will dance the roles of the
Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen for the matinee.
Show times are 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $18 to $32
and can be reserved by calling 243-2539. The 7 p.m. performance is a
benefit for the Burbank Boys and Girls Club.
Parents can shop without the kids -- 3 and older -- Saturday and
Sunday as the Burbank High School Dance Production Team is offering a
Kids Activity Day from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the
high school’s small gym.
Rates are $3 an hour per child with a $12 minimum charge or $24
for 8 or more hours. Games, music, stories and dancing are planned.
Kids must bring a sack lunch.
The Instrumental Music Assn. of Burbank High School, directed by
Dean Immel, will have its winter concert Dec. 18 at John Muir Middle
High School auditorium, 1111 N. Kenneth Road, because the high
school’s auditorium is under construction.
The Jazz Ensemble will perform starting at 6:15 p.m. while the
boosters sell hors d’oeuvres and cider in the courtyard to help
offset instrument repair costs. Tickets are $5 and $3 for students
with identification cards.
* JOYCE RUDOLPH’s column appears Wednesdays. For events happening
this weekend, read her 48 Hours column Saturdays. Reach her at