The Coast News Group
Encinitas Ballet students during last year’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Courtesy photo

Encinitas Ballet talks upcoming nutcracker performance

ENCINITAS — This Saturday, Encinitas Ballet will put on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Center. In addition to students and their families performing, professional dancers from Russia will take part in the show.

Born in Russia, Sayat Asatryan and Olga Tchekachova, the husband and wife team who run Encinitas Ballet, are heading the performance. In this Q&A, they talk choreography, the work that goes into the nutcracker and Encinitas’ reputation for the arts.

This is your sixth year putting the Nutcracker on. Do you try and make the choreography different each year?

Sayat: Yes, definitely. Every year it’s different, because children are different. We find the child’s talent and export it to the stage.

And also we have 17 nationalities who are a part of our school. We try and bring in their different traditions to the show to give it a special flavor.

Olga: Plus, our students get stronger from year to year. Those children that started three years ago are very good dancers now, so we challenge them with new choreography.

 How much time and what goes into developing this production?

Sayat: It’s a lot — usually we start to rehearse three months in advance, including costumes, working with dancers and sets. Right now, our set is waiting in customs in New York (laughs), but it will be here. And there’s music and lighting, so it’s not just one thing.

 You have Russian dancers, including a gold medalist and grand pix winner, flying in for the show. How did their participation in this come about?

Sayat: This was my idea. I traveled to Russia during the summer and visited a celebration of 75 years of Voronezh Ballet Academy, where I used to study.

I see these young dancers, and I asked the director, “Why not have your students come and perform with us?” … And then maybe some of our students can go to Russia in the summertime and participate in a performance together with them. Ballet itself is an international language.

And then, for us, it’s not just national, but an international level, so people will know Encinitas — that’s important.

 Is Encinitas well known in the national or international ballet world?

Sayat: In ballet, not really — but in the arts, yes. About four years ago, I went to a booking conference in Seattle. One of the presenters, he saw a sign for Encinitas Ballet and came to me and said, “wow, you have a great representative in Encinitas — Jim.”

 Oh, Jim Gilliam (Encinitas’ arts coordinator) ?

Sayat: Yes. The presenter said you have to meet with him. I didn’t realize that people are talking about Encinitas in Seattle.

I think what’s happened is that we have such a great team of Arts Commission people promoting us.

Olga: Encinitas is small. It’s part of bigger San Diego County, but it’s independent and unique enough to become something more in dance.

 Of all cities, why did you decide to open a ballet studio in Encinitas?

Olga: We wanted to be somewhere close to the coast. We looked all the way down the coast from San Francisco, looking at where we could raise a family. We saw it’s a great place to have kids and a family.

 Why do you think the Nutcracker remains popular?

Olga: It was performed first in Russia and traveled around the world and the reputation built. It became a holiday tradition. You can’t feel the spirit of the holiday without the nutcracker. And it’s fun for all ages. From little kids to adults, everyone gets together to watch.

As of Wednesday, tickets for the 6 p.m. show were still available online at