Arts & Entertainment

Arcadia Youth to Take on Nutcracker’s Clara role at Historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Sofia Gutierrez shown rehearsing for her upcoming The Nutcracker performance at Pasadena Dance Conservatory. – Courtesy photo / PDT

By I. van Ammers

Former Highland Oaks student Sofia Gutierrez, whose dancing started at age 4, turns nutcracker dream into reality.

When Sofia was 9 years old she a got a spot as one of the party girls in the production of “The Nutcracker.” Naturally, like so many young ballerinas before and since, she couldn’t stop watching Clara, dreaming of the day when she could have the role.

“I remember being at rehearsal and seeing Clara executing the variation when she receives the nutcracker and it was that moment that I first dreamed of doing that role. To have the opportunity to dance this legendary role is incredible and humbling and brings me one step closer to becoming a professional dancer. To play Clara, I have to say I’m a little bit in disbelief sometimes.”

Flash forward a few years and plenty of ballet slippers later, at the age of 15 Sofia is living her dream of portraying the role of Clara in this year’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the San Gabriel Playhouse on Dec. 15 and 22, 2019 directed by Artistic Director Cynthia Young. Originally started in the 1892 as a two-act ballet choreographed by Petipa and Ivanov, the story follows a young girl, Clara, who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve, wages a battle against the evil Mouse King and travels to the Land of Sweets.

“The Nutcracker” has become a seasonal institution for Pasadena Dance Theatre (PDT), with more than 80 dancers involved in the show, with backstage crew and lighting techs who are always tweaking more details to keep the show fresh and exciting.

For those who find it daunting to imagine memorizing hundreds of steps try to consider being a teenager performing these in an iconic role in front of hundreds, but for Sofia it’s all about having fun and training.

“I go over my steps until it becomes muscle memory, like riding a bike. Right before a show, I love to practice all my choreography, to make sure that I don’t blank out on stage. Right before I go on, I take a deep breath and embrace the moment because this is what I love.”

As one of the oldest and most popular narrative ballets, “The Nutcracker” is a Christmas sweet that helps underwrite funding for PDT for more projects the rest of the year. This production generates lasting and joyous memories for so many in this performing art, Sofia Gutierrez included.

Tickets start at $50. To purchase tickets visit

December 12, 2019

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