Nutcracker sweets: Local cousins perform in California Ballet ‘Nutcracker’

Cousins Haley Parsons and Neta Sánchez of Carmel Valley and Del Mar will dance in the California Ballet Company's "Nutcracker".

Cousins Haley Parsons and Neta Sánchez will be dancing together in the California Ballet Company production of “The Nutcracker,” running Dec. 13-24 at the San Diego Civic Theater. Neta will be one of the dancers in the lead role of Clara this year while Haley will do spins as a Sugar Plum attendant and a Rose in the Waltz of the Flowers.

This sparkling new version of “The Nutcracker” by California Ballet Artistic Director Jared Nelson features re-imagined choreography and new costumes and sets for the first time in 50 years. The California Ballet production is accompanied by live music from the San Diego Symphony.

“All the dancers and crew and everyone behind the scenes put in so much effort to make this production magical,” said Neta. “This ‘Nutcracker’ is a professional production with the extremely talented and beautiful dancers in the California Ballet Company.”

Haley, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy, has been dancing at California Ballet School since she was five, and is currently a trainee with the California Ballet Company.

Neta lives in Del Mar and is an eighth grader at Earl Warren Middle School. Like her older cousin, she has been dancing at California Ballet School since she was five.

“Ballet is very disciplined and I’m not naturally a disciplined person, so it helps me keep myself in check. The movements are very free and expressive and I like to add my own artistry when dancing,” said Neta. “And dance has also introduced me to some of the greatest people and friends in my life.”

Cousins Neta Sanchez and Haley Parsons backstage at the Civic Theater.

This will be Neta’s eighth year performing in the “Nutcracker” and while every role she has performed has been special in different ways, she is excited to see how dancing the role of Clara will feel. In performances where she will not play Clara, she will dance the role of a Candy Cane.

“You can tell that Neta dances from her heart,” said Haley of her cousin’s dancing, complimenting the way she sets herself apart from other dancers on stage.

Haley is dancing in her 11th “Nutcracker”—her favorite role was dancing in the Snow Corps last year, which she had dreamed of doing since she was young, “With the music and the snow falling it felt magical,” she said.

“Haley has this incredible attention to detail and care when she dances and I love her turns… she can turn like crazy! You can tell when she is dancing that she has an extreme passion for dance,” Neta said of her cousin. “When Haley goes away to college, I’ll definitely miss our tradition of celebrating performances at Yogurtland late at night and freaking out the other customers with our full stage makeup!”

As a trainee, Haley is dancing six to seven days a week, which can amount to more than 20 hours.

“It has definitely been challenging to juggle my rigorous course load at Canyon Crest Academy with my class and rehearsal schedule, but the amount of enjoyment I get out of dancing will always prevail,” Haley said. “After a tough day I enjoy losing myself in the music and movement of ballet, and it helps balance the stresses from school.”

As a trainee, Haley gets to work closely with the company’s artistic director Nelson, whom she said pushes the dancers to their limits and inspires them to reach higher standards.

“I love how ballet always motivates me to work hard because there is always room for improvement. It brings me joy to showcase my hard work on stage,” Haley said.

Haley is currently applying to colleges as a double major in pre-med and dance because she said she is not ready for her time as a dancer to come to an end.

“I still have lots of room for growth and improvement in this art form, and I want to continue to share my passion with others,” Haley said.

Coming up behind her cousin, Neta said she does not think her path is to become a professional dancer but she knows that dance will help her in a future career path, which she hopes will be an artistic one.

“I hope I will maintain the strong drive and focus that dancers have,” she said.

For tickets to the California Ballet “Nutcracker,” visit