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Weekender

It's the time when Christmas toys come to life and for a Nutcracker to dance

December 11, 1987|GERALD FARIS

If seven years constitute a tradition, the Palos Verdes Ballet has established one with its annual holiday "A Tale of the Nutcracker" performance to the music of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.

Over the years, total attendance has been about 12,000, and the numbers will grow this weekend when the ballet--in which a child's Christmas toys come to life and dance--unfolds for five performances at the Norris Community Theatre.

Fay Gillette, founder-director of the ballet company, said the tradition was started with its first production--which was called "Nutcracker"--in December, 1981, at Rolling Hills High School. She said the company was formed specifically to present that ballet to the Palos Verdes Peninsula community.

"There was an overflow audience," she said. "It was our initial step."

Although the company frequently uses guest artists from other ballet groups in its productions, it is made up largely of students in the Rancho Palos Verdes dance school, which Gillette opened 20 years ago to develop local ballet talent.

Gillette described the ballet company as being in the tradition of the American Ballet Theater, in which a school and a ballet company are linked in order to produce a style and a permanent group of dancers. "They have that togetherness that is just beautiful," Gillette said.

The company was invited to dance at the Norris on the night it opened in 1983. It also has performed "Cinderella" twice at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. This year's season at the Norris began with "Sleeping Beauty" in September, and the final production will be "Coppelia" in April.

Gillette said the holiday "Nutcracker" frequently proves to be an introduction to ballet.

"There are children who have never been to a ballet until they come to ours," she said.

The Norris is at Crossfield Drive and Indian Peak Road in Rolling Hills Estates. Choreography is by the company's Uta Graf-Apostol.

Performances by the cast of 40 are at 8 p.m. tonight, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday. Reserved seats are $12.50, and there are reduced prices for children ages 12 and under for the Saturday matinee and for students and senior citizens at the 1 p.m. Sunday performance.

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