San Francisco Ballet brings Clara and the Nutcracker back to where it was first performed in the United States, 75 years ago. Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson‘s version of the seasonal classic has been a mainstay of the season since 2004, set here in San Francisco, with the backdrop of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.

There’s more information about the performances, which run through the 29th at the San Francisco Ballet website.

As both a dancer and choreographer, Tomasson has had a long history with the Tchaikovsky classic. “Having been a principal dancer at New York City Ballet for 15 years, we danced Nutcracker there every year. So when I came here, Lew Christensen had planned another production, a newer production, which was sort of dropped in my lap, and I had to look at those designs, and figure out what to do with some of the divertissements in the second act.” That was in the mid-1980s. About 20 years later, he came upon the idea of using the city itself as the setting. “Of course we were the first ones to do it here in San Francisco. I felt it very appropriate to… why not stage it this time in San Francisco? So I think it just makes you feel good… It’s a wonderful story about a young girl who has this dream… The ballet sort of takes her on that journey of the dream. And in the end she wakes up back in her own home.” He says it can’t help but be an important tradition for dance and music lovers. “Once you hear the Nutcracker music play on the radio or in the department stores, you say, ‘OK, it’s happening’. First of all, the music is fabulous. Everybody recognizes that music. It’s a family ballet. It makes you feel good about the tradition and the holidays. I think that is a very big part of it, it’s sort of the holiday spirit.” He adds, “I can’t think of any dancer who doesn’t like Nutcracker or the music. Yes, it’s a lot of hard dancing, for over thirty performances in a row, but the audience seems to be enjoying it, and that’s what I think keeps us going.”