Audio slide show: Los Angeles Ballet rehearses the Nutcracker. Again.

Most ballet dancers have performed in The Nutcracker since they first put on tights. Every holiday season, they have to get excited all over again by the Sugar Plum Fairy and Drosselmeyer. The Nutcracker is a perennial favorite with families that introduces ballet to new audiences and helps pay a company's bills.

I was allowed to observe up close as the Los Angeles Ballet prepared for this year's performances. About two dozen dancers arrive in the morning at a nondescript studio on Exposition Boulevard in West L.A. They take class and rehearse the iconic roles with co-artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, the husband and wife team that started the ballet company four years ago.

The Los Angeles Ballet's production features homages to L.A., and while the Tchaikovsky music is familiar, the choreography is original. In the accompanying slide show, Before the Costumes, you'll see and hear Christensen and Neary at work and meet dancers Katie Tomer, Justin Liu, Monica Pelfrey, Matthew Dowsett, Nancy Richer and Alexander Forck.

Performances begin Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, then move to Royce Hall at UCLA on Dec. 19 and 20 and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center Dec. 26-27. Ticket info.

Audio slide show by Judy Graeme

More by Judy Graeme:
Sometimes art is all about the collaboration
A peek inside Universal's closet
Helmut Newton and Los Angeles
Drummer girls
A. Quincy Jones getting his due
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