Allan Hancock College Youth Dance is celebrating 20 years of presenting The Nutcracker ballet with anniversary performances on Dec. 17, 18 and 19 at the Ethel Pope auditorium.

With more than 70 performers and dancers, this production will be a dazzling addition to seasonal events this year to be enjoyed with the entire family.

Twenty years ago, under the direction of Anna Trent Moore and former AHC faculty Linda Maxwell, youth dancers performed their debut production of The Nutcracker, consisting of excerpts from Act II, the classical dance portion of the story of Clara’s travels to the Kingdom of Sweets with her nutcracker doll.  The Nutcracker quickly grew to a full production by its second year.  Since then, the production has expanded into its current full-scale holiday classic, with the complete story of the Christmas Party to include new sets, props and costumes.

“The emphasis has always been to provide the community with a quality production while giving young dancers the unique opportunity to perform in a full-length ballet,” Director Cynthia Valenzuela said.  “Since those first couple of years, the production has grown into a larger-than-life, story-ballet production, thanks to the continuing support of the college, PCPA, the dance community, the local business community and, of course, the unwavering support of parents and families.”

The Nutcrackers performers include children and adult members from the community who volunteer their artistic and performance skills to make the production a success.  Dancers between the ages of 5 and 18 are enrolled in Allan Hancock College Youth Dance.  Many of the students who have performed often dance year after year, moving through the different roles and scenes and culminating with their last performance during their senior year in high school.  Others become adult choreographers or instructors in the youth dance program.

Several youth dance alumni participating as both choreographers and performers will return for the production.  Long-time instructor and choreographer Courtney Grimnes choreographed and will dance in a special Mother Ginger piece.  Former youth dancers Jillian Jorde Cota and Kevin Cota will dance the roles of Mama and Papa Stahlbaum, the parents of Clara.  Aniela Sobel and Cassidy Langley will reprise their roles as the Nutcracker and Mouse Queen, respectively.  Returning Allan Hancock College dancer Brent Lewis will perform as the Cavalier.  Adult dancer Robert Burns will perform the role of Drosselmeyer; youth dancers Bridget Huffer and Caitlyn Sanders also lend their choreographic skills; and Celine Maravick and Kristyn Houston will return to perform in this year’s production.

The graduating seniors in this year’s production are Francesca Eszes as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Ivana Valenzuela as the Rose Queen.  A student at St. Joseph High School, Eszes also has lettered for four years with the girls tennis team.  Valenzuela attends Nipomo High School and performs with the Nipomo Dance Company.

Performances are Friday, December 17, and Saturday, December 18, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, December 19, at 2 p.m., in Santa Maria High School’s Ethel Pope Auditorium, 901 S. Broadway.  Tickets are $14/$11.  Call the PCPA Performing Arts Center Box Office at 922-8313 for ticket information.