After a year away from the stage, Westside Ballet is thrilled to be returning to The Broad Stage at Santa Monica College for its beloved production of The Nutcracker. The ongoing pandemic has presented many challenges to the arts communities, but with a new understanding of how to keep the cast and crew safe, the dancers are ready to bring the magic back this holiday season.
Playing the coveted role of the Sugarplum Fairy this year is homegrown talent, 17-year-old Daniella Zhou, who is now training at Miami City Ballet in their pre-professional program. With her new studio on a different coast, she didn't think she would get to perform the role at the studio she grew up in. "I am beyond excited. It's always been a distant dream — it's always been a goal," she told NewsBreak. "When I found out about Miami and I decided to go, it broke my heart that I wasn't going to finish it out at Westside." Yet her dream came true when Westside Ballet’s Artistic Director Martine Harley asked her to come back to dance the lead role this year.
Zhou will be performing over two weekends in the city's longest-running Nutcracker beginning Nov. 27. The lavish production has been a Los Angeles tradition since 1973 and it promises to dazzle audiences again this year. The big return is something she calls "overdue" after the challenges of 2020. "The reward for all of the hard work we do during the year is being able to go on stage and enjoy yourself with your friends in the theater," she added.
While the teen is looking forward to bringing her new Miami City training to the stage with Westside Ballet's impressive choreography, Zhou is also looking ahead to college next year. "I think no matter what, I will continue ballet for the rest of my life in any way that I can. I am applying to colleges right now," she explained. "For sure, I will be taking dance in some sort of format. I'm thinking about double majoring or doing a minor in dance. I'm excited to diversify my dance education."
Don't miss NewsBreak's full interview with Daniella Zhou above, where she reveals more about her training at Westside Ballet, the differences in the program at Miami City Ballet and what The Nutcracker means to her.
For more information on Westside Ballet's Nutcracker, visit their website. The performances run Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 4-5 at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica.