Double delight for Alameda's 'Nutcracker'

by Jennifer K. Rumple - Alameda Journal
December 9, 2010

Two leading dancers. Two performances.

Another big holiday production for the Alameda Civic Ballet.

It's that time of year again when the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mouse King and Nutcracker Prince dance their way from Alameda Civic Ballet's studio on Park Street to Kofman Theater to perform "The Nutcracker."

"It's a community production as opposed to a really big company performing and I think it's really good," said Fiona Murphy, 15, a sophomore at Alameda High School and dancer the last nine years. "We hold our own with the big companies. It's really fun. I enjoy it. (The audience) will enjoy it and it's a good way to spend your holiday."

Murphy has performed with Alameda Civic Ballet since she was six. She's a Snowflake and Dew Drop this year, but played the role of Clara years ago. Murphy's friend and fellow classmate Isabel Saxty, 15, snagged the well-known part for this year's production because "she's an amazing dancer." Saxty, also a sophomore at Alameda High said it was her time.

"I've been kind of on the verge of getting it for a long time and this year, I guess I was just chosen. Since it's only the one show, I always look forward to rehearsals," said Saxty, who will play Clara during the Dec. 18 performance. "There's new choreography this year. We've advanced and progressed a lot so we're able to do a lot more choreography now. Plus, we're a lot older now."

This is Alameda Civic Ballet business director JaYing Wang's third year with the company but this production means more to her on a personal level. Her daughter, Bishop O'Dowd High School freshman LiLi Pigott, 14, performs as Clara during the Dec. 19 performance. It's also Pigott's first time in the leading role.

"Because the two Claras have been dancing for awhile, they get to dance on 'point' where previous Claras have not -- which means they get to dance on the tips of their toes," Wang explained. "Not many dancers are able to do that. It's quite difficult. So that will be something new."

She added, "Also, we do have some really great professional dancers from all around the Bay, a very high caliber, coming to perform."

Wang noted, "Some people say, 'Well, I'm going to San Francisco 'cause that's the real ballet.' And yes, of course, that's a fabulous, professional ballet. But this one is local and fantastic."

Alameda Civic Ballet has more than 120 dances, from ages 3 or 4 into their 60s. as well as professional ballet dancers in this year's production.

"You go and see people you know. You see your classmates, your neighbors -- your community," says Wang. "It's really fun."

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Nutcracker rehearsals

Alameda High School sophomore Isabel Saxty, 15, enjoys rigorous rehearsals leading up to Alameda Civic Ballet's production of `The Nutcracker,' which runs Dec. 17-18. Saxty has danced in the annual holiday favorite many times, but this will be the first time she'll perform as lead character Clara.