ANTIOCH -- To make a dance program like "The Nutcracker" come alive it takes more dedication and time than just that of the children who perform in the production. It takes a community of volunteers.

Years ago when Nina Koch first decided to bring "The Nutcracker" to East County she knew that to get all the children involved and excited about performing she would have to bring the community together. A production like this wouldn't just include children from one dance studio, but many.

Now celebrating its eighth year of performing one of America's favorite holiday ballets, the Brentwood Children's Ballet Theater will present "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 15 and 16 at the El Campanil Theatre.

"This production takes a lot of parent support. There are no paid positions," said Tammy Strabley, whose daughter Alayna is playing Clara in this year's production. "There are all kinds of committees doing their part right down to the fundraising committee. The production couldn't be done without the parent support."

Strabley said that the Brentwood Children's Ballet puts on a first-rate production, especially with the help of Stephanie Knudsen, the company's artistic director.

"Every time I go there is always something different," she said. "It is a first- rate production done by the children."


Advertisement

Alayna Strabley, this year's Clara, is a freshman at Liberty High School who is dedicated to dancing. This is her fifth year with the group and performing a role in the ballet. It is her first year as Clara. Locally taught, she has been dancing since she was 4 years old and has participated in more than 100 dance competitions, winning several awards. When she started at Liberty High School, she immediately tried out for the varsity dance team and was awarded a position on the team.

Alayna and other members of the ballet group have been practicing every Saturday since September to get ready for this year's production. The children who perform in the ballet are between the ages of 7 and 18.

Over the past eight years the Brentwood Ballet Theater has grown and made many changes. It is now a nonprofit with the express goal of presenting "The Nutcracker" each year. It has a board of directors with people of different backgrounds. Knudson is the president.

Koch says that their choreographers have grown and the cast is now up to nearly 70 members with representatives from four different East County dance studios.

Knudson said that every year the company's goal is to make "The Nutcracker" better and different enough from the year before so to encourage returnees.

Among the changes are some differences in the dancing styles, she said.

If you go
What: "The Nutcracker"
When: noon and 4 p.m. Dec. 15; noon and 4 p.m. Dec. 16
Where: El Campanil Theatre, 602 W. Second St., Antioch
Info: 925-757-9500 or www.elcampaniltheatre.com
Cost: $20 orchestra seats; $18 loge; $16 opera seats. (Discounts on 4 p.m. Dec. 15 show.)