Multiple boys from local Santa Monica schools will participate in the upcoming rendition of "The Nutcracker." (Credit: Todd Lechtick)

As it has every year for nearly five decades, “The Nutcracker” is set to return to Santa Monica this November, and thanks to the influence of various performers, this year’s presentation will feature an element that wasn’t too common during previous interpretations of the popular ballet.

Occurring at The Broad from Nov. 30 through Dec. 8, 2019, the 47th annual Nutcracker season is expected to captivate local residents once again thanks to the ballet’s impressive array of dancers — some of whom attend local Santa Monica schools.

Show organizers said this year’s performance will feature 42 Santa Monica residents and the most boys ever, according to Community Outreach Director Jewels Solheim-Roe, who said there are 11 boys performing in this year’s ballet and 6 of them live or go to school in the local area.

This might not seem like a lot, but dancer Daisy Kohner said it really beneficial for all involved, including the audience.

“Having boys in the Nutcracker definitely helps with the strength and the overall look of the ballet, because you need boys for partnering or for lifts, Kohner said, “and it just really uplifts the ballet as a whole.”

Some of ballet’s male participants are as young as 11-years-old and attend Grant Elementary School, while others have been performing for more than a decade.

Reed Walker, who will play Party Boy in the upcoming presentation, is the youngest of this year’s male participants.

Walker said he got involved in dance last year after his mom showed him a video of famous dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov, “and I was like: I want to do that! End of story.”

Thirteen-year-old Jesse Peterson said he’s been dancing for as long as he could remember and has previous experience at the School of American Ballet in New York.

In his approximate decade of dance experience, Peterson said he’s learned there’s nothing better than getting an opportunity to perform in front of an audience, “but the community here (at Westside School of Ballet) is really cool too.”

Like their peers, both Peterson and Walker said they’ve enjoyed being able to bond and learn from the other male performers who are more experienced.

“When I first got started dancing I was super scared, but now that I’ve finally grown friendships with almost all of (the boys), it’s awesome,” said Dylan Weinstein, who will share the entertaining and difficult role of Center Chinese Tea. “It’s really cool to have an older mentor because if you’re working on a step or you have a role that’s harder, then you have them to rely on to help.”

Fellow performer Sawyer Jordan agreed, stating his time in dance has given him the confidence to approach others outside of the studio.

“Somebody stopped because of some issues and I saw him at school to ask if he was coming back,” Jordan said. “He wasn’t going to, which I understand but I still always encourage new kids to try ballet because if you’re like me or a bunch of my friends, you’re fidgety and full of energy and this is one way to put it to use.”

Peterson added, “I think there’s a common misconception dancing is for girls but it’s really not though, because without boys there is no partnering and takes away parts and devalues important parts of the play.”

Peterson said the strength and agility that come from dancing are only a few of the many benefits.

Kohner said having boys in the program “definitely helps defeat those gender roles that are typically set in place, which is cool because it helps promote the idea that anyone can do what they want and that boys don’t have to be limited to typically ‘masculine’ sports.”

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