By Staff Writers Christine Dong & Kelly Yang
Upon hearing the first lively notes of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite, nostalgic anticipation for the classic holiday ballet filled the auditorium of the Smith Center at Ohlone College. On December 10 and 11, the dancers of Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy, with five MSJ students among them, fulfilled everyone’s dreams of Christmas magic with their 13th annual performance of the Nutcracker ballet with live music by the Fremont Opera Orchestra.
The ballet follows the journey of a young girl Clara and her toy Nutcracker brought to life by magic. Together, they fight their way through hordes of mice and travel through an enchanted land of snow to finally arrive in the Nutcracker’s home, Candyland. There, they are greeted by the residents of Candyland, sweets from countries all around the world, who perform a series of dances for Clara’s entertainment.
Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy has been bringing the magic of the Nutcracker to Fremont every year since 2005 with original choreography by the late founder of the dance studio Yoko Young and by current Studio Directors Erin LaMoyne and Megan Ellis. Young’s Nutcracker production was Fremont’s first full scale ballet performance, and has since become a holiday tradition for both the dance studio and the city. “It brings to Fremont a culture, a live orchestra, and the opportunity to see a ballet performance they might not be able to see otherwise and lets the students who belong to the city have an opportunity to perform for the city,” said Yoko’s Studio Office Manager Marlene Ellis
Sophomores Irene Chang and Kristin Leung, Juniors Jaycee Horng and Claire Zhang, and Senior Angela Lu worked hard to perfect their dances for the Nutcracker. “We have about three or four six-hour rehearsals on the weekends leading up to the performance, and we also practice on weekdays,” said Leung.
In addition to attending many rehearsals, the dancers had to devise effective ways of managing their time. “It was definitely hard, especially on the the times where we had rehearsals on the weekend for about five to six hours where I had to do my homework beforehand and plan ahead,” said Zhang.
The time they spent preparing for the show brought them experiences valuable in many ways. “[Learning to balance schedules] was valuable because inevitably you’re going to have to do it later on in your life. You also get fun times with friends. We spent a lot of time together and they’re the only ones who understand the suffering of balancing the schedules,” Lu said.
The time and effort they funneled into the performance was worth it. As each dancer took to the stage during the show, they dazzled the audience with their grace and talent.
Chang, who was the Kissy Doll and one of the Flower Waltz Corps, performed elegantly, first with delicate movements mimicking a stiff doll, and later with a fluid piece demonstrating flawless technique. “Performing in the Nutcracker is a tradition for me, and I look forward to it every year,” said Chang.
Leung, a Candyland Gatekeeper, deftly demonstrated her coordination and balance through crisp steps and multiple pirouettes en pointe, moving with a unique balance between fluid grace and effervescent cheer.
During Horng’s role as a French Maiden herding a flock of young lambs, she skillfully completed the humorous, theatrical piece with grace, maturity, and a touch of vivacious energy.
Zhang played the part of the Chinese Soloist, and she highlighted her impressive flexibility through leaps and arabesques, successfully capturing the lively spirit of the fast-paced music.
Lu danced as a member of the Snow Corps. “It’s not very [festive] in Fremont. I mean, it doesn’t snow and there’s no giant, central Christmas tree, so this is one way of experiencing the holidays,” Lu said.
The other four MSJ dancers were also dancers in the Snow Corps. Their clean transitions between the many formations resembling snowflakes combined with their radiant smiles and twinkling, pure-white tutus created a breathtaking sequence of poise, elegance, and control.
Photo by Staff Writer Christine Dong