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Cast of “The Nutcracker” parties under South Coast Plaza Christmas tree

Judy Morr with Alexei Ratmansky at "The Nutcracker" 2016 cast party.
Doug Gifford

   Flushed and giddy, Ava Mc Larand, 14, of Newport Beach joined fellow cast members of American Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” to celebrate under a three-story Christmas tree at South Coast Plaza following their opening night performance presented by Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

   Appearing in Act One’s snow scene, where thousands of ‘snow flakes’ tumble over the dancers, was her “favorite moment,” said Mc Larand who danced the role of Clara as a young child. “Sometimes they got caught in my mouth, my hair!”

   Observed her beaming grandmother, Catherine McLarand: “I always wanted to dance. She is living my dream!”

   Also enjoying the party, underwritten by Chanel, was Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to become a principal dancer with ABT. Ava Mc Larand’s goal, she said, was to become a superstar like Copeland, who also danced the role of Clara in the production.

   Partygoers including ABT artistic director, Kevin Mc Kenzie, and ABT choreographer Alexi Ratmansky, cruised a buffet of Italian offerings whipped up by Antonio Cagnolo’s Quattro Café. Along with bubbly----sparkling cider for the young-set----guests also sampled flavorful sweets that included peppermint bark gelato and mini cupcakes decorated with nutcrackers and Christmas trees.

   A production of “The Nutcracker” is “often a person’s first exposure to the performing arts,” observed McKenzie. “And they enjoy it so much, they return year after year, making it a wonderful family tradition.”

    Ava McLarand is a student with ABT’s William Gillespie School at Segerstrom Center.

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