Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

The Nutcracker Comes to Life with Local Dancers from Marat Daukayev School of Ballet

Young dancers from the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet rehearsing The Nutcracker. The school will present four performances on December 10-11 at the Luckman Theater at Cal State LA. (photo from Julie Pearl)

Sponsored Post

In less than ten days, the Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre will present four performances of The Nutcracker, the beloved traditional holiday ballet, at the Luckman Theatre on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles. Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet comes to life on December 10 and 11, 2022 with a cast of over 100 local young dancers under the direction of Marat Daukayev, whose classical ballet school has been training dancers since 2001.

Dancing dads fill in as extras in the party scenes in the ballet.

The Marat Daukayev School of Ballet, now housed in several light-filled studios at the Equitable Building in Koreatown, has been a beehive of activity with dancers practicing and their parents readying costumes and sets for weeks.

Though the past two years have been very unsettling, between the pandemic and moving the school from their longtime home on La Brea, the closeness of the school community abounds. Throughout the school’s extensive studio spaces, parents can be found sewing costumes and organizing the vast inventory of costumes needed for all the various dances that will be transported to the theater for the performance. Other parents are repairing and painting the Christmas tree that magically grows on stage. And dancing dads joined in rehearsals as extras in ballet’s party scenes. For most, this is their only dance experience and all have throughly enjoyed being part of this special annual school ballet peformance.

“It’s a wonderful community ballet,” explained Pamela Daukayev. “We have over 200 students in the school and we find a role for anyone who wants to dance. The ages range from 6 years to adult, like my husband Marat, who is Drosselmeyer.”

The Marat Daukayev School of Ballet’s mission is to provide serious classical ballet training in the St. Petersburg style. Marat Daukayev is a former star of the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. During his 20-year career he danced the leading male roles in the complete repertoire of classical ballets. A highly accomplished and awarded dancer, Daukayev came to the U.S. as the Artist Director of the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. and Ballet Master of Colorado Ballet. In 2001, he and his wife Pamela, also a dancer, moved to Windsor Square and established the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet and the Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre.

“The Nutcracker is a ballet that holds a lifetime of memories for me. As a child, I enjoyed dancing the roles of party children and soldier. As a young man, I was fortunate to dance many performance as the prince. And now, here I am as Drosselmeyer,” said Marat.

Performing The Nutcracker signals a welcome restart for the school community forced onto Zoom during the pandemic like so many. It’s a also a testament to love of ballet the Daukayev’s have nurtured in their students and their families over the years.

The youngest dancers wait for their queue in rehearsal.

“We start with our youngest students at the age of 3 in a pre-ballet class that teaches gestures and coordination for ballet and learning in a fun way for children,” said Pamela Daukayev. “As students advance,  we try to encourage everyone who enjoys dancing. The older students serve as role models to the younger students inspiring both groups. We have some students who continue ballet in high school and college. We always encourage everyone to go to college and have a Plan B should professional dance not be their future.”

“For The Nutcracker, everyone dances in every performance, the roles change and we work out the logistics of costume changes etc. but we try to encourage everyone to support each other with a growth mindset,” said Daukayev.  She’s delighted the school serves as a hub for students from the neighborhood, becoming another place where they can develop friendships as well as learn ballet. There are also students who travel across the city to attend the school too. The school also offers scholarships for students who need financial assistance.

Parents working on the “growing” tree scenery given to the school years ago.

Daukayev said it takes a lot of parents and a lot of participation from everyone to make the annual production run smoothly. The school relies on ticket sales and donations to support the production which can cost upwards of $250,000 to produce. They also hire a three-person camera crew to produce a video of the show so parents and family members can enjoy the performance and not worry about making a video!

“The video also helps our students develop a a professional reel should they want one,” explained Daukayev.

“You can’t believe you are seeing children dancing,” said Steve Vernetti. “They are amazing; the performance is truly incredible and not to be missed.”

“I’ve studied ballet at Marat Daukayev since I was three,” said Lola Vernetti. “Of course I love the dancing, but the community and people I have grown up with…that is irreplaceable. That has made me the person I am.”

Lola Vernetti (photo by Virginia Oxford)

The Vernetti’s are all in for this year’s performance where Lola will be dancing several solo dances. It’s a family affair with mom, Joanna Vernetti, sewing and cleaning costumes and dad, Steve Vernetti, closing the restaurant and bringing his entire staff to the performance.

Ballet costumes drying on the pergola at the Vernetti’s home. (photo from Steve Vernetti)

Performances are Saturday, December 10 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 11 at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at The Luckman Theatre (Cal State LA) 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles 90032.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Sponsored Post 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }