‘Nutcrackers’ of the world, dance!

San Francisco Ballet — the country’s oldest professional ballet troupe, founded in 1933 — was also the first to present “Nutcracker,” the holiday classic set to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music, in the United States.

With the 2010 “Nutcracker” season about to begin Dec. 9, some members of the international company offer comments about their holiday experiences at home, from neighboring Canada to far-away lands.

Frances Chung (Vancouver, Canada): “At Christmas, we would gather with my family, and play the game White Elephant — everybody brings a wrapped gift, something recycled from home, and then either open one or steal a gift from somebody who already opened his or hers. Sometimes, very rarely, you end up with the gift you want, but one year I ended up with a remote control.”

Lorena Feijoo (Havana, Cuba): “We are far from having snow or anything cold, but we still celebrate. There is no Santa, but we gather, all the family, have a party, exchange presents. Sometimes we go to the beach and have a
summer Christmas.”

Hansuke Yamamoto (Chiba, Japan): “On New Year’s, it’s traditional for kids to fly kites. I remember how fun it was, and a beautiful sight to see.”

Pierre Vilanoba (Lille, France): “I am from Northern France — it’s a bit cold there, so the warm feeling I had with my family, with the Christmas tree, was really nice. Later, when I was working in Paris, in the Palais Garnier, I saw the windows of the store across the street, which reminded me of the warm feeling that I loved.”

Yuan Yuan Tan (Shanghai, China): “When I was in China, when I was young, there was no Christmas for us. We celebrated New Year’s Eve, we go to friends’ places, family, had a big banquet. The first time I danced ‘Nutcracker’ with the San Francisco Ballet was in 1994 with Steven Legate.”

Daniel Deivison Oliveira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): “In Brazil, a lot of people celebrate their own way. Myself, I celebrated with my family, lots of food and gifts. For New Year’s, people go out, celebrate.”

Elana Altman (San Francisco): “Growing up in San Francisco, one of my favorite holiday traditions was ice skating at the Embarcadero. I also used to look at the windows in Union Square with my family. I started performing in ‘Nutcracker’ here when I was 9, so I’ve been doing it practically for my whole life.”

From the original 1892 production by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, “Nutcracker” productions proliferated all over the world, arriving in San Francisco in 1944 with choreography by company founder Willam
Christensen.

The upcoming production, which runs through Dec. 27, is by San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson.

IF YOU GO
Nutcracker

Presented by San Francisco Ballet

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: Opens at 7 p.m. Dec. 9; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 10-12, 14-19; 21-23 and Dec. 26; 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 24; 2 p.m. Dec. 27; closes Dec. 27
Tickets: $25 to $249
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org/nutcracker

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