Dress rehearsals are underway for Westside Ballet of Santa Monica’s 2011 “The Nutcracker.” The company is celebrating its 39th year of performances.

Each year, students of Westside School of Ballet are auditioned to play the various roles and rehearsed for several months leading up to the performances.

Overseeing the production as artistic director is Yvonne Mounsey, founder of Westside Ballet of Santa Monica and former principal dancer with New York City Ballet under legendary choreographer George Balanchine.

Westside’s production is the traditional version based on William Christenson’s “Nutcracker” staged in San Francisco starting in 1944. His ballet brought the first production of Tchaichovsky’s “Nutcracker,” which originated in Russia, to the U.S., establishing a now standard holiday tradition.

Balanchine is said to have worked with Christenson to develop the ballet, although Mounsey is quick to differentiate the styles.

“When [Balanchine] came to America, he revolutionized ballet,” Mounsey said. “I remember him saying, ‘It’s jet planes and skyscrapers,’ he made it more exciting.”

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica’s 2011 “Nutcracker” will be hosted at the Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., during the weekends of Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11. Tickets are available through www.ticketmaster.com.

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