Scenes from ABT’s The Nutcracker and the Opening Night Cast Party

Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” might be about as sacred as it gets in the ballet universe. It’s always an artistic risk when a classic opus that’s beloved by audiences is reimagined. But often, it’s this kind of creative courage that transforms the traditional into something fresh and exciting, as when  fashion houses are reinvigorated by a new designer at the helm. In the hands of the American Ballet Theatre for several years now, The Nutcracker has become wonderfully modern without losing the delightful elements that endeared it to families for generations, One might even argue that this version is a lot more fun, engaging and playful yet still elegant. 

Refreshed by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and set and costume designer Richard Hudson, the latest incarnation was described by the Los Angeles Times as  “a joyful ‘Nutcracker’ ballet that is ravishing and clever enough to inspire multiple viewings.”

Misty Copeland danced the part of Clara on opening night.

For the third consecutive year, South Coast Plaza hosted the opening night cast party for the ABT’s The Nutcracker in as many years as Segerstrom Center for the Arts has been the ABT’s winter home for the holiday season. The event is as part of our ongoing efforts to support national, regional and local arts institutions.

The cast and guests arrived at South Coast Plaza to the sight of our sparkling giant Christmas tree, a familiar theme from The Nutcracker, encircled by images from Chanel, the evening’s sponsor.

South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court was decorated by White Lilac Inc. with beautiful hues and lush textures inspired by the ballet: tulle, roses, peonies and more.

Gilt soldiers at the base of our giant sparkling Christmas tree were another nod to The Nutcracker tale.


Principal dancers Misty Copeland and Daniil Simkin led the opening night cast.

From left, Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Terry Dwyer, American Ballet Theatre’s Kara Medoff Barnett and South Coast Plaza’s Debra Gunn Downing

Principal dancer Marcelo Gomes and Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Judy Morr

South Coast Plaza’s Debra Gunn Downing and American Ballet Theatre’s Kevin McKenzie

Against a backdrop of wintry trees inspired by the set for Waltz of the Snowflakes (below), Vaca restaurant’s celebrity chef Amar Santana gave paella a personal touch. 

The stunning Waltz of the Snowflakes was a source of inspiration for some of the design themes at the cast party. The Nutcracker is at Segerstrom Hall through Dec. 17.

 (Performance photos by Doug Gifford/Segerstrom Center for the Arts, cast party photos by Drew A. Kelley/South Coast Plaza)