SAN BERNARDINO - There's magic in the air this weekend. The kind of sugar-coated magic that creates dancing snowflakes and mini bon bons.

Now an Inland Empire tradition, Inland Dance Theatre presents its 36th annual production of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Ballet."

IDT's version of the timeless classic comes to the California Theatre of the Performing Arts for three performances, Friday through Sunday.

Diane Amendt, a third-grade teacher at Ruth Grimes Elementary School in Colton, is now in her 32nd year as artistic director for the IDT production. Evette DeMarco Swinson is the rehearsal director and choreographer.

Amendt, who started directing the same year she performed as the Dew Drop Fairy, is excited about this year's show.

"This is one of the best productions yet," she said. "I love how magical it is. `The Nutcracker' is the start of the holidays for me and a lot of other people, too.

"We always have a lot of wonderful talent. I think people would be surprised if they knew what was going on in our own community."

Tchaikovsky's classic ballet, about a young girl named Clara who dreams of the Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King, is one of the most popular ballets of all time.

The 60-plus member cast of all ages is made up of amateur and professional dancers and actors from throughout Southern California.

Cast members include Giselle DeMarco of Lake Arrowhead as the Sugar Plum Fairy; Spencer Hering of Redlands, Cavalier; Kathleen Curtis of Highland, Snow Queen; Gary Franco of Los Angeles, Snow King and Russian Dancer; Michelle Klaers of Anaheim, Dew Drop Fairy; and Quincy Jacinto of Moreno Valley, as her Cavalier.

Others in the cast are Alexandria Lugo, 11, Highland, Clara; Lillia Seaver, 10, Lake Arrowhead, Fritz; Niko Rogue-Rivera, 13, Redlands, Nephew/Prince; Kristen Neuenschwander, 13, Highland, Nutcracker; Gabriela Roque-Rivera, 16, Redlands, Mouse King.

Former San Bernardino resident Brian Sandahl, now of Anaheim Hills, marks his 23rd year portraying the mysterious toymaker, Herr Drosselmeyer.

Snow Queen Kathleen Curtis of Highland, now in her 18th year in the IDT production, said "The Nutcracker" is an essential part of her Christmas celebration.

"The ballet is performed the first week in December and it just starts the Christmas season every year," said Curtis, 28, who has performed roles from the Sugar Plum and Dew Drop fairies to the Nutcracker and Mouse King.

"Dancing is my passion," she said. "I keep doing it year after year because I love it."


Reach Michel via email, call her at (909) 386-3859.