Arts & Culture

Civic Ballet of SLO, Opera SLO collaborate on 'The Nutcracker'

Isabel Deyo will dance the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy in "The Nutcracker."
Isabel Deyo will dance the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy in "The Nutcracker."

For local choreographer Lisa Deyo and her family, “The Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition.

Deyo starred as Clara in Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo’s first production of “The Nutcracker” in 1977. Her daughter, Isabel, followed her pointe shoe-clad footsteps in the lead role more than three decades later, in 2009.

This weekend, Isabel Deyo will take the Performing Arts Center stage as the Sugar Plum Fairy, considered the most challenging role in Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet about a courageous young girl and her enchanted toy. She’ll dance opposite Ryan Lawrence as the charming Cavalier.

“We really try to make ('The Nutcracker’) a professional production every single year,” explained Drew Silvaggio, in his 10th year as artistic director of Civic Ballet. “Having Isabel in this role will bring the whole production to the next level.”

According to Silvaggio, the ballet company scored a major coup by persuading Isabel Deyo, who is currently studying at Ballet Theatre’s prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City, to return home for “The Nutcracker.”

"She’s right there on the tipping point of making the jump to a world-class professional dancer,” he said, describing Deyo as a joyful yet polished performer who is clearly “in love with dance.” “We’re basically getting her before she blows up.”

The rest of the “Nutcracker” cast includes Elise Bobic and Breanna Donlon as Clara, Jamie Guerra as Herr Drosselmeyer and Greta Carlson as the Christmas Doll. (Lisa Deyo’s mother, Judy Freeman, and brother, John Freeman, will also appear onstage.)

Accompanying Civic Ballet for the second year is the Opera San Luis Obispo symphony orchestra, conducted by artistic and general director Brian Asher Alhadeff.

Although it’s relatively rare for live musicians to accompany dancers these days, Silvaggio said the experience will benefit everyone involved.

“Everybody is on board to give the community the best, the most passionate, heartfelt performance that they can,” he said.

Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo isn’t the only dance group offering a holiday show this weekend.

Dancers from Class Act Dance Studio in Paso Robles and the Paso Robles Chamber Ballet appear in “The Nutcracker,” directed by Cheryle Armstrong. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Templeton Performing Arts Center; tickets are $20 to $25.

At 8 p.m. Friday, the Moscow Ballet will perform the classic ballet “Cinderella” at Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. Admission is $35 to $55.


“The Nutcracker” 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday Cohan Center, Cal Poly $18 to $53 756-4849 or