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On Pointe with American Ballet Theatre

Kevin McKenzie was pinching himself. “This is such a gratification for me,” said the artistic director and acting executive director of American Ballet Theatre as he joined cast members and local ballet lovers at “The Nutcracker” opening-night cast party at South Coast Plaza. “I’ve been coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts since the first year it opened. I danced in ABT’s first ‘Nutcracker’ here decades ago, and, tonight, I sit down and look at the genius of this production and know it’s the beginning of a tradition and years from now I will think, ‘I was here the first night it happened!’ ”
  The December evening marked the West Coast premiere of the ABT production, choreographed by its renowned artist in residence, Alexei Ratmansky. The production has moved from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the Segerstrom Center, where it will appear for the next five years.
   The ebullient McKenzie had praise for Segerstrom Center Executive Vice President Judy Morr: “I have to tip my hat to Judy; she has made an audience for dance, ballet in particular, at the Segerstrom, which has become a major cultural center.”
   Morr herself seemed on top of the world at the bash co-hosted by South Coast Plaza, Tiffany & Co., and Orange County BMW Centers. “The performance met all the expectations that both The Center and ABT had. It was perfection! In my mind, Ratmansky is without question the foremost choreographer working today. His work represents the best of the human spirit.”
   Besides the performance’s principal dancers, Gillian Murphy  and Marcelo Gomes, child dancers also attended the elegant celebration tossed at the base of Jewel Court’s towering Christmas tree. “I had so much fun, running all over the stage,” said George Buford, who danced Little Mouse. Observed Justin Souriau-Levine (Fritz): “The whole show is so fun – just an amazing experience! You have to love it!”

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