The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Yoko’s Dance & Performing Arts Academy hosts 18th anniversary of the Nutcracker at Ohlone College

By: Staff Writer Alice Zhao

On the weekend of December 9-10, parents and students alike eagerly gathered at Ohlone College’s Gary Soren Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts to watch Fremont’s 18th annual Fremont Nutcracker ballet. The performance, which was held by Yoko’s Dance & Performing Arts Academy and the Fremont Opera, featured over 100 performers, including eight MSJ dancers and city officials such as former Senator Bob Wieckowski and Mayor Lily Mei.

Created by famous Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892, the Nutcracker ballet is based on an adaptation of Prussian author Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The ballet tells the story of Clara, a young girl, and her nutcracker doll. As the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Day,  Clara dreams of an imaginary world where the Nutcracker comes to life. She watches as the Nutcracker leads an army of toy soldiers to defeat a horde of mice. The Nutcracker then transforms into a prince, taking Clara to the beautiful Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets, where the pair are entertained by dancers from around the world. 

First choreographed in 2005 by Yoko Young, founder of Yoko’s Dance & Performing Arts Academy, the Fremont Nutcracker was the first full-scale ballet performance in Fremont. Since then, it has become a holiday tradition for the dancers at the studio. “Without it, this time of year just wouldn’t feel the same. It’s always fun to spend time with my friends backstage and cheer for each other from the wings,” Junior Raina Wu, who performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy and one of the Gatekeepers, said. 

The innovative stage design, backdrops, and props featured in the performance added to the holiday spirit and magical wonder of the ballet. For example, when Clara falls asleep, the couch she sleeps on seems to travel across the stage while the Christmas tree in the background of the play magically grows larger. To achieve these effects, the production team controlled a spinning chair from backstage and used ropes to “pull” up the Christmas tree. “The stage is very pretty … [and] I thought the electronic technology they used [to move the couch] was very cool,” audience member Queene Qiu said. Attendees also enjoyed the dancers’ complicated choreography. From the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier Pas de Deux, to the energetic performance of the Mice Queen, to the beautiful solos of the Spanish, Chinese, Arabian, and Russian dancers, it is obvious that the dancers spent a lot of time rehearsing together to practice for the performance.

The long hours and extra time at the studio to prepare for the production were no surprise to the performers, especially for Seniors Isabelle Tang, Samantha Tan, and Renee Ke, who have been involved with the Nutcracker performance for years. For Tan, balancing her schoolwork with extra rehearsal time was worth it. “In the end [the dedication and amount of time spent rehearsing] was all worth it to see our entire community work together to put on a show that spreads Christmas joy,” Tan, who played the Nutcracker and the Spanish dancer, said. Ke agreed, describing the ballet as one of her favorite parts of the holiday season and mentioning how it’s been hard saying goodbye to it. “My experience this year was especially sentimental since it is my last time, and I have been doing it every year for most of my life,” Ke said.

Watching the Nutcracker, it is clear that the dancers’ rehearsals paid off — the dancers, backstage crew, and orchestra deserved every bit of the thunderous applause that filled the theater after the performance.  From when the first notes of “Miniature Overture” rang out across the theater to the final few measures of “Final Waltz and Apotheosis” that ended the ballet with a flourish, the audience was captivated by all aspects of the performance. Between the inventive stage design, breathtaking scenery, and electrifying choreography, Yoko’s annual Nutcracker ballet is a beautiful annual tradition. 

Photos by: Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy

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