For the fourth consecutive year, fourth- and fifth-graders in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District were treated to a special performance of “The Nutcracker.”

About 500 students from local elementary schools were bused to The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center Wednesday for the first of the three scheduled presentations that will occur this week. By the end of the day Friday, approximately 1,500 students will have seen the ballet, according to show organizers, who said the performances are held in an effort to introduce local youth to classical dance and music.

While Westside Ballet’s Associate Artistic Director Caprice Walker narrated and offered facts about the popular ballet that dates back to the late 1800s, children had the opportunity to enjoy 10 choreographed scenes performed by fully costumed Westside Ballet dancers aged 10- to 18-years-old.

Though the show was an abridged version of Westside Ballet’s full-length production and didn’t feature special effects like falling snow or the popular cannon shot, there was still plenty for the children to see during their time in front of The Broad Stage.

Oohs, Ahhs, and other exclamatory remarks were common throughout the show as dancers completed the spins, jumps and pirouettes they’ve been working to refine week in and week out since August.

Applause rang out after every scene and following the completion of the final dance, SMMUSD board President Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein took the stage to conduct a question-and-answer session with the attending students and on-stage performers.

Some members of the audience jumped out of their seats for the chance to ask the stars of the show a question and many of the students’ peers were eager to provide them with the answers.

As will be the case during the performances occurring this weekend, many of the performers on-stage Wednesday are residents of the local area, according to Community Outreach Director Jewels Solheim-Roe, who said one of the main characters featured in this year’s performance is Santa Monica High School’s Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein.

Tahvildaran Jesswein recently spoke about the multiple roles he holds in “The Nutcracker” and said families should definitely consider catching a show of the classic ballet during the last few performances that are slated for this weekend.

“It’s definitely worth seeing because every piece has a unique character and there’s so many different things you can take away from the show,” Tahvildaran Jesswein said. “I always love to say you can ask 100,000 people what they liked about the show, and everyone will love it for a different reason. That’s why I love working on ‘The Nutcracker’ because it’s this very old story that’s been repeated time and time again, but you can always watch it and be like: ‘Wow!’”

Public presentations of the full Nutcracker ballet began last Saturday, Nov. 30 and will continue through Sunday, Dec. 8 at the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center.

Officials said tickets are nearly sold out, but interested residents can visit for more information on the coming performances.

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