Virtually every little girl that dances dreams of one day attaining the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker.” This dream comes true this December for two talented local 15-year-olds, Lexi Garfinkel and Talia Lebowitz, who will perform this coveted role in Pacific Festival Ballet’s 23rd season of “The Nutcracker” at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Kavli Theatre.
Talia and Lexi have grown up together at California Dance Theatre, the official training school for Pacific Festival Ballet. In addition to dreaming about the role of Clara, both Talia and Lexi have goals of pursuing professional dance careers. Talia began dancing at age 5. She was born with an undeniable desire to dance, and training at CDT for more than 25 hours a week is her happy place. Lexi also began dancing at age 5 and became serious during her middle school years. She spends almost every day of the week dancing with friends at CDT.
Fortunate to have California Dance Theatre in their community, Talia and Lexi’s passion and respect for the art of ballet was cultivated at the school. Often, dance begins as a source of recreation offering a chance for moms to meet other moms while young girls and boys have the opportunity to meet other children who have a fondness for dance. Once a seed is planted and fostered, it often grows into a passion to pursue dance at a higher level. At CDT, this love of dance is nurtured under the watchful eye of caring professional teachers as they encourage, educate and offer a place to thrive.
Some CDT dancers pursue the path toward becoming a professional dancer, while others enjoy the love of dance along with the comraderie that these dancers form with one another, oftentimes dancing into their high school years together. There are those CDT students who have earned dance degrees in higher education dance programs, such as Juilliard, Boston Conservatory, University of Arizona, Indiana University or Point Park in Pennsylvania, while others go from CDT to pre-professional or professional opportunities. Alumni from CDT have succeeded in these pursuits by joining San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Ballet Nebraska as well as Opera de Lyon Ballet in France.
Lexi will be taking the first route of applying to university dance programs while Talia will be taking the latter. Currently Talia is participating in a new pre-professional program offered at CDT. Because of Talia’s homeschooling, this program is a perfect match, as classes begin at 1:30 and continue into the evening. CDT has gathered world class master dance teachers to guide a small group of serious dancers and prepare them for the rigors of a professional dance career.
Lexi attends the academically demanding Oak Park High School, and after a full day of school, is off to the studio to continue her education in dance. These young ladies see that their dreams are within reach and can be attained. All they have to do for encouragement is look at the Playbill for the Broadway show “Holiday Inn,” and see the names of two CDT alumni in the cast: Jonalyn Saxer and Catherine Ricafort (a former Pacific Festival Ballet “Clara”) are performing in this musical together. Another hit Broadway show, “An American in Paris,” showcases the dance skills of CDT alumni Candy Olsen and Alida Michal (another former “Clara”).
Part of the Nutcracker magic is that of sugar plums. For the seventh year, New York City Ballet’s principal dancers, Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia, return to Pacific Festival Ballet, CDT’s resident ballet company, performing the role of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. In addition to these guest artists, the cast is complete by showcasing rising stars from our community and regional professionals, as well as international celebrities of the ballet world.
The community can play a part in helping these and other dancers pursue their dreams by becoming a Pacific Festival Ballet donor. Please visit PacFestBallet.org to learn more.
The public is invited to experience the magic of “The Nutcracker,” performed Dec. 17 and 18 at 2 and 7 p.m. Purchase tickets at the Civic Arts Plaza Box Office, 2100 Thousand Oaks Boulevard, online at Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800.745.3000.