A Tale Of Two Clara's Brings Ventura County Ballet's "The Nutcracker" To Life, Nov. 19-20

14-year old Ventura residents Madeleine Riddle and Makenna Ortiz will anchor a cast of more than 125 dancers in the annual production of "The Nutcracker" presented by Ventura County Ballet.

An essential part of the holidays, the Nutcracker is one of the most beloved performances of the season. Ventura County Ballet reinvents this family classic by delivering professionally choreographed performances that take audiences on an enchanting journey into the world of dancing sweets, dueling rats and, of course, a magical prince.

Anchoring the cast of more than 125 dancers, 14-year old Ventura residents Madeleine Riddle and Makenna Ortiz will alternately share the role of Clara, a part both young women have dreamed of since beginning ballet lessons at the age of four.

Earning the coveted role of Clara was no easy feat. Riddle and Ortiz trained with professional ballet company intensives throughout the summer and returned to Ventura County to begin a regimented schedule of five dance classes each week to train and weekend rehearsals to learn complicated choreography.

"When I found out I was Clara, I felt like it was a dream," said Riddle, a student at Foothill Technology High School. "It is just like the dream scene in 'The Nutcracker' where Clara is dreaming...I feel like I'm going to wake up and realize that I'm not Clara, but I know this is real, that I am Clara and I have a role to dance."

Ortiz, a student at Ventura High School, shared her sentiments as well. "I am very excited to be a part of this company and for all the experiences I have had with the other talented dancers. I'm grateful for the opportunity to dance the part of Clara this year."

Both Riddle and Ortiz have performed in nearly 20 main stage productions each and have danced several roles for the 'Nutcracker,' from candy to lollipop, soldier to rat and angel to French marzipan.

"Our ballet company is so full of talent that we've expanded the role of Clara so that two of our top dancers can share the spotlight," said Kathleen Noblin, executive director of Ventura County Ballet. "We work with these dancers from a young age and delight as we watch them blossom into beautiful performers."

Oritz will dance as Clara at the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performances while Riddle dances at the Saturday matinee.

New staging and video effects will sprinkle the classic production with modern flair and a freshly installed snow scene will dazzle crowds as characters pirouette through twinkling flurries and dance to Tchaikovsky's immortal score. The 52-piece Ventura College Symphony Orchestra will create a live and interactive musical compliment to the dancing.

Ballet details:
What: "The Nutcracker" - Presented by the Ventura County Ballet
When: 2 and 7 p.m. on Nov.19 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 20
Where: Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard
Cost: Adults: $10 - $25, children: 10 years and under $12 (excludes center orchestra) and seniors: 65 and older $17 (excludes center orchestra).
A complimentary sugar plum cookie reception for ticket holders will follow each 2 p.m. matinee
Tickets: Purchase at http://www.oxnardpacc.com or the theater box office 805-486-2424, or visit http://www.venturacountyballet.com/Performances.html