The holiday season is a time for miracles, anticipation and traditions. One holiday tradition that is an important part of the Bakersfield community is the Civic Dance Center and Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra’s annual performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.”
Originally published in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffman, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” was adapted from its original, darker version to a happier and more child-friendly story. In December 1892, the Russian Imperial Ballet commissioned Peter Tchaikovsky to write the music for its adaptation. It was not instantly popular, but over time, a fan base grew. George Balanchine choreographed the most popular production of the “Nutcracker” in 1952 for the New York Ballet.
Various adaptations also appeared in American movies and television. The most popular television special of 1977 was a presentation of the “Nutcracker,” choreographed and performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov with the American Ballet.
Professional ballet companies also took the show on the road to the delight of audiences across the America.
On Dec. 18, 1954, London’s Festival Ballet gave a performance at the Harvey Auditorium deemed “outstanding beyond anticipation.” The San Diego Ballet performed the “Nutcracker Suite” on the stage of the Bakersfield College theater in December 1965, and in 1976, the Santa Barbara Ballet Theatre production of the holiday favorite appeared at the West High School auditorium.
Local productions of the “Nutcracker” were the most popular as parents delighted in watching their children perform.
Under the direction and choreography of Cindy Trueblood, known then as Miss Cindy Howell, the Stockdale Ballet presented the enchanting tale at the South High Lecture Center on Dec. 11 and 13, 1975. A Bakersfield local, Trueblood studied her craft in both New York and Los Angeles.
The pivotal point for Trueblood’s “Nutcracker” production came in 1977 and it involved the new director of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra.
John Farrer became music director beginning with the 1975-76 season. Farrer worked to further foster the relationship between the orchestra and the community. Part of his plan was to collaborate with a local ballet company on the “Nutcracker.” Trueblood recalled to Christy Gavin in a Dec. 6, 2012, Bakersfield Californian article that she had 8mm film of a “Nutcracker” performance she had produced in her parents’ garage. Although she worried about the quality of the film, she decided to share it with Farrer. Farrer was impressed and soon a partnership formed between Trueblood’s Civic Dance Center and the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. What they could not have known at the time was how long this collaboration would endure.
Almost 20 years after their first presentation of the “Nutcracker,” the Shafter Press urged readers on Nov. 27, 1996, to not miss that year’s show. The article announced the much-anticipated “comeback” of the Dancing Bear and heaped praise on the dancers who are “glorious in their passion, their accomplishment and their dedication. They represent a bright Nutcracker!”
Now entering its 40th production, the Civic Dance Center’s “Nutcracker” has become a multigenerational tradition. Traditions are what bring families and communities together and it is the support of this tradition that has allowed the Civic Dance Center’s annual performance to endure for four decades and counting. ￼