Visions of sugar plums: ‘Clara & The Nutcracker’ comes to the Miners Foundry in Nevada City |

Visions of sugar plums: ‘Clara & The Nutcracker’ comes to the Miners Foundry in Nevada City

Clara meets her magical Nutcracker for the first time, putting into motion a thrilling adventure for the whole family.
Photo by Kial James |


WHAT: Holt Ballet Conservatory and Miners Foundry Cultural Center present “Clara

& The Nutcracker”

WHEN: Box Office 6 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Thursday & Friday; Saturday, Box Office opens at noon, doors open at 12:30 p.m., with the show starting at 1 p.m.

WHERE: Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring Street, Nevada City

TICKETS: $22 General admission, and $16 for students. Tickets available online and in person or by phone

at the Miners Foundry, 530-265-5040.


Few Christmas traditions resonate quite like “The Nutcracker.” A two-act ballet set to the classic score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, “The Nutcracker” made its debut in the late nineteenth century and has been delighting audiences ever since.

“Clara & The Nutcracker” tells the story of Clara, a girl whose life is transformed by a magical wooden Nutcracker gifted to her by an eccentric uncle. The toy soon becomes a real prince and escorts Clara on a sensational journey through lands of frosty snowflakes and delectable sweets.

This year the Holt Ballet Conservatory will present “Clara & The Nutcracker” at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City on Dec. 7 through 9 to what promises to be sold out crowds. Their show — which began in 2011 as an in-studio performance of excerpts from the renowned ballet — showcases detailed sets, magnificent costumes, state-of-the-art lighting, and of course that musical score which is embedded deeply in so many minds.

Yelena Holt, the founder of Holt Ballet Conservatory and director of “Clara & The Nutcracker,” said that the performers, who range from children to professional dancers, began rehearsing in September.

“It’s a studio production with both students and professionals on stage so you can see the best of both worlds: the aplomb of the professionals along with the exuberance of new dancers excited to be on stage for the first time!” said Holt.

“Everyone works and bonds together,” she said, “and develops a family energy that transfers from the performers to the audience.”

This year the role of Clara will be danced by Seven Hills seventh grader Tenaya Anderson while Brenna O’Brien MacDonnell — who danced as Clara the past three years — will fill the pointe shoes of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Former Northwest Florida Ballet dancer Amy Schultze will perform the role of the Snow Queen.

Practice makes perfect

The process of preparing for their performances can be challenging, said Holt, but she is consistently impressed. “The most amazing thing is how the kids and dancers take ownership of their roles. I’m amazed by the mind and body’s ability to learn.

“That’s what keeps me doing it: the thrill of learning something new and seeing the kids take pride in their accomplishments.”

Holt’s “Clara & The Nutcracker” has proven successful over the last several years, and it isn’t uncommon for the audience members to be repeat customers; that is, folks who have seen the annual ballet one or even a hundred times in their life but still come back each year.

Holt explains that there is a good reason so many view it time and time again.

“[People enjoy] the coming of age of the young girl Clara, and the uncle who takes her on a journey and brings her into that magical world,” Holt said. “[Audiences] look for that innocence that still believes in something greater than ourselves and I think the story tells that really well.

“Plus, the old-fashionedness of it. People long for the sense of stability of the old days.”

Anyone who has seen the Nutcracker can note their favorite part of the tale and Holt is no exception. After carefully considering her answer, Holt shares that her preferred scene is, “Waltz of the Snowflakes. It’s beautiful, with all the white and the Snow Queen and the flakes. The music is awesome, with those ethereal vocals. The complicated choreography is intriguing as a choreographer and as a coach.”

However, she admits there is much importance in the opening party scene. “It is a big part of the background, the staging, the characterizations and dramas that occur.”

Of “Clara & The Nutcracker’s” universal appeal, Holt said, “I think that it is a fantastic opportunity for entertainment for a family. And it’s a good date show.”

“What makes it special in Nevada City is that you can go shop and go out to lunch or dinner,” she said. “The Miners Foundry is such a warm and hospitable venue with the fire going, hot cider and cookies, and a no host bar. It’s a festive afternoon or evening of entertainment.”

Although the pomp and circumstance surrounding “The Nutcracker” is part of the experience, the significance for Holt and her talented troupe lies in the delivery of the ballet, using dance to tell a story.

“The audience is going to be very pleased with the level of quality of the dancers’ training as well as the accomplishments of the professionals,” Holt said. “We’re pretty proud of our studio.”

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at

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