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Photo by Lucinda Maughan Armstrong

Featured Article

A Holiday Tradition

Embrace the season by taking in a performance of The Nutcracker, presented by Littleton Youth Ballet and Littleton Ballet Academy

Even if you’ve never seen a performance of The Nutcracker, you’ve probably heard of it—and you definitely know its music. Originally choreographed in 1892 by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Tchaikovsky, it was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”

The Nutcracker is arguably the most popular ballet performance. In fact, major American ballet companies generate around 40% of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker. But you don’t have to travel to a major American ballet company (or pay the major ticket prices) to enjoy a performance. Since 2011, the Littleton Ballet Academy and the Littleton Youth Ballet Company have been presenting performances of the classic two-act ballet to great acclaim.

Littleton Ballet Academy was founded in 2003 by Bobbie Jaramillo and her daughter Ali. Both professional dancers with impressive résumés, the mother-daughter duo wanted to share their love of ballet. “And then in 2007, we started doing performances,” says Ali. “I grew up with doing a lot of performances, and I think it's really important. After all those lessons and classes, performing is like dessert.”

Shortly after the academy started doing performances, Bobbie and Ali created a nonprofit youth ballet company for serious, upper-level students ages 7–18. “You have to be in level three or higher,” explains Ali, “and you have to come to an audition. We've never rejected anyone, it's just a formality. But it does show their interest. And then they’re accepted as part of this company.”

With around 325 students enrolled in the academy and 86 dancers as part of the ballet company, both entities have a team-like feel, something that Ali says tends to be missing in ballet. “They have uniforms and they have mentors; the mentors will teach the younger kids things like how to sew their pointe shoes.” Ali says they also try to make it as family-based as possible, “because we're very aware that during Nutcracker season, we tend to see them more than their parents do.”

Set in 1902 Littleton, Ali says the performance has stayed true to the traditional story. “What I love about our Nutcracker is that it's got a great family feel to it. There's no slapstick. There are no surprises. We don't have a creepy Drosselmeyer. We try to make it as family-friendly as we can.”

Production starts with selecting the right dancer for each role. “Choosing who will play Clara is the hardest thing because almost everyone wants to be Clara,” says Ali. “This year, we have six Claras. We were thinking we were going to have five; we knew it was between about eight kids. One of them surprised us at the audition by being just so charming and amazing. We were like, well, we have six shows. I guess we're going to have six Claras.”

The entire faculty is involved in the selection process. “We talk with all the teachers, asking questions like ‘What do you think about this kid?’ ‘Is this the right year for them to be in this role?’  ‘Are they going to get really nervous?’ And if they're not ready for this year, they may be chosen as an understudy and perform the role next year. We try to make sure that everyone in the advanced levels has something special to do that they're going to be really excited about.”

These 2022 performances are special for all the teachers and students, as it’s the first year since 2019 that things feel back to normal. Obviously, there were no performances in 2020, and in 2021 everyone performed in masks.

“I just think the biggest thing is that all our kids love The Nutcracker. You know, sometimes when you're watching people, you can tell they don't love what they're doing. But I feel like all our kids love it. Our parents seem to love it. They don’t love Saturday rehearsals, but I think once they get in, they're like, ‘This is so fun to see my child so happy.’”

To purchase tickets, visit

Performance Dates

12.02.2022, 7:30 pm
Robert and Judi Newman Center for Performing Arts, Denver

12.16.2022 7:30 pm
Joanna Ramsey Theatre, Westminster

12.17.2022, 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Joanna Ramsey Theatre, Westminster

12.18.2022, 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm
Joanna Ramsey Theatre, Westminster

Clara will be performed by
Emma Livesay, age 12
Miranda Metz, age 14
Addie Skufca, age 11
Olivia Weimerskirch, age 10
Emmry Wiley, age 12
Lydia Woodward, age 11

Sugar Plum Fairy will be performed by
Rebecca Dingwell, age 17
Olivia Key, age 15
Brielle Shore, age 16
Lauren Woodward, age 18

  • Photo by Lucinda Maughan Armstrong
  • Photo by Lucinda Maughan Armstrong
  • Photo by Stefan Kruze
  • Photo by Lucinda Maughan Armstrong
  • Photo by Lucinda Maughan Armstrong