Marat’s ‘Nutcracker’ to feature local as Sugar Plum Fairy

| October 26, 2023 | 0 Comments

SUGAR PLUM FAIRIES: Annabell Johnson, Natalie Moon, Grace Tankenson, Wynter Ross and Maya Ozawa-Minoff take a rehearsal break.

LEVEL ONE dancers rehearse, guided by teacher Wendy Quinn and dancer Annabel Cury.

Students, staff and parents at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet are hard at work preparing for this year’s performances of “The Nutcracker.”

The classical ballet school was established in 2001 by Windsor Square residents Marat and Pamela Daukayev. Marat danced with Russia’s Kirov Ballet for 20 years and was a principal dancer. He and Pamela have created one of the largest and most eminent ballet schools in Los Angeles.

MARAT and other teachers look on while the corps de ballet dancers rehearse.


NUTCRACKER PRINCE Zarek King leaping during practice.

When we visited the school’s expansive facilities on the second floor of the highrise at 3435 Wilshire Blvd. recently, the level of professionalism was clear. Marat and the other teachers expect dedication and focus. But, as Valerie Weiss, parent to one of this year’s five teens dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, told us, “It’s a warm, loving, nurturing environment.” Weiss appreciates that the school fosters such a caring atmosphere while rigorously teaching dancers the best technique.

One young Windsor Square resident, Grace Tankenson, has been learning in the Marat atmosphere since she was 3. This year, the junior at Immaculate Heart will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy role during the Saturday afternoon performance. Said Tankensen, “I’ve grown up here at Marat, seeing others play the role. Now I get to do it with my dance family. It’s like a dream come true.”

Some other locals in this year’s performances are: Annabel Cury of La Brea  Hancock, Lola Vernetti of St. Andrews Square and Reece and Tate Clossey of Windsor Square.

Touring the school and seeing all the activity going on to prepare, it’s apparent that it takes a village to make the show happen each year. “The production costs around $300,000 to produce,” executive director Pamela Daukayev told us. Funds are raised through ticket sales, donations and fundraisers.

But money isn’t all that’s required. Parents are a big part of the reason the shows are so successful. Grace’s mother, Mandy Tankenson, has served as the school’s volunteer production coordinator for several years. Her older daughter, Amelia, also performed many times in “The Nutcracker.”

There’s a whole crew of parents backstage, working to get performers where they need to be, assist with quick changes and take care of all the odds and ends that are necessary to make performances run smoothly.

Some dancers’ fathers participate as Dancing Dads in the show’s party scene. Other past and present parents are already working tirelessly to ensure that more than 400 of the 6,000-strong collection of costumes the school owns (most from Russia and Japan) are mended and adjusted to fit each of this year’s 106 performers to perfection. (Many dancers play three to four roles.) “The parents get very involved,” said the executive director. She continued, “We couldn’t do it without them.”

COSTUME TEAM: Seiko Kuriyayashi, Yuko Wood and Madoka Ozawa-Minoff in the room where numerous alterations are made.

The Daukayevs believe the arts are a sacred profession. Many of Marat’s students do end up going on to dance professionally, and they are all encouraged to let their bodies be a vehicle of expression when they dance. Pamela Daukayev told us, “People identify with things [that dancers] show or express. You want to fully feel — not only for yourself, but also for the audience.”

To experience these young artists performing this year’s “Nutcracker,” visit in late October to purchase tickets. Performances of The Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker will take place at the Luckman Theatre at Cal State LA, 5151 State University Dr., Fri., Dec. 8 through Sun., Dec. 10.

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Category: Entertainment

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