Diablo Ballet’s The Nutcracker Suite and Behind the Scenes

November 13 at 7:30 pm PST through November 15th at 10 pm PST 2020

Dean Speer

2020’s pandemic has provided, if anything, opportunities for presenting organizations of all stripes to dig in and get creative. As the old adage goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Instead of just rolling over due to the shutdown, ballet groups are finding ways to engage their adoring public and provide at least a virtual look at their wares. East Bay Area’s Diablo Ballet, a chamber-sized ensemble of professional world-class dancers under the direction of Lauren Jonas, is one such organization.

Diablo Ballet dancers Jackie McConnell and Raymond Tilton
in Julia Adam’s “The Nutcracker Suite”
Photo by Rosselyn Ramirez

Diablo Ballet’s film of Julia Adam’s reimagining of Nutcracker is one good example. Adam tends to think and create out-of-the-box, as I seem to recall from seeing some of her previous ballets. Filmed in just one day in their (California) studios, it’s more than a “Reader’s Digest” version. It’s a production where I think Adam threw the elements into the air, and seeing where they landed, re-ordered and re-did quite a lot of what we might think of as normal. No big home Christmas Ball or waltzing petunias, but gifts given anyway. I liked many of the San Francisco-related references and inside humor, such as the Suite happening in the Fairmont Hotel’s top floor suite, and how hotel maids and accurately uniformed bellboys fit neatly into the character plot. Yes, there is a Sugar Plum Fairy but no Cavalier as such. The Russian Dance music was used as the battle scene. I also like the humor of how some of the cast “travels” from Venice to Paris to Vienna to yes, Walnut Creek.

Diablo Ballet dancers Amanda Farris and Michael Wells
in Julia Adam’s “The Nutcracker Suite”
Photo by Rosselyn Ramirez

After the guests enter the Suite, a big-band style dance ensues to “Blue Christmas” by the Jackie Gleason Orchestra. It actually fits in quite neatly and nicely and is quite lovely and heartfelt.

At about 45 minutes in total length, this sweet suite can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Credits include:

Choreographer: Julia Adam

Producer Director & Editor: Walter Yamazaki

Director of Photography: Luke H. Sauer

Lighting Designer: Jack Carpenter

Costumers: Renee Rothmann, Rebecca Berke

Props: Performing Academy, Debbie Shelley


Concierge/Drosselmeyer:  Michael Wells

Clara Diablo:  Olivia Powell

Bell Hop/Nutboy:  Roberto Vega-Ortiz

Mrs. Diablo/Sugar Plum: Jackie McConnell

Mr. Diablo/Cavalier:  Raymond Tilton

Auntie Diablo/Snow Queen:  Amanda Farris

Fritz Diablo/Mouse King: Felipe Leon

Maid 1/Mirliton:  Danielle Troyano

Maid 2/Mirliton:  Theresa Knudson

Maid 3/Mirliton:   Olivia Grace Cole

Maid 4/Mirliton:   Sophie Kim

Premiere: November 8, 2019, Del Valle Theatre, Walnut Creek, California Film Created: October 29, 2020, Performing Academy, Pleasant Hill, California Behind the Scenes video created by Jordan Tilton

2021 Season

Balanchine & Beyond, February 19-21, 2021

Featuring the joyous and energetic Who Cares? choreographed by George Balanchine; the romantic duet, Carousel (A Dance) choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon inspired by the Broadway Musical “Carousel”; the return of the hauntingly beautiful Berceuse by Penny Saunders; the comedic Frugivory by choreographer Bruno Roque; a new work by company dancer Michael Wells; and the Pas de Deux, variations and coda from the timeless fairytale The Sleeping Beauty featuring the entire company.

Once Upon a Time, April 9-10, 2021

Julia Adam’s witty and sophisticated Once Upon a Time, where a young man accidentally nds himself as the male lead in everyone’s favorite classic fairytales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood. With the introduction of new characters and fun plot twists, this full-length ballet will leave audiences of all ages believing in happily ever after.

Coppélia, May 28-29, 2021

Considered one of the best-loved classical ballets, this charming, lighthearted, romantic comedy staged by Artistic Director, Lauren Jonas, and Broadway choreographer, Sean Kelly, features a brash young protagonist, a doll that comes to life, and a dash of magic. Perfect for all ages, Coppélia will be accompanied by the Diablo Symphony Orchestra and include students from Diablo Ballet School.

For Season Subscription or Single Ticket information:925.943.1775 / diabloballet.org