5 Things to Know about Aaron Smyth, Fresno’s ‘Nutcracker’ prince
You actually have two opportunities in Fresno this weekend to see international ballet star Aaron Smyth dance in “The Nutcracker.”
One is on the big screen. He plays the Snow Cavalier in the Disney movie “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”
Or, you could opt to see him perform in person at the Saroyan Theatre. He plays the Prince in a production featuring Santa Barbara’s acclaimed State Street Ballet and local children representing Fresno Ballet Theatre. (The Valley Performing Arts Council presentation plays for two Fresno performances: 1 and 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23.)
Sure, Smyth loves the movie and all, but there’s no question which version he’d recommend:
“It certainly was magical to be on set for a Disney film, but there’s no comparison to live theater,” he says in a phone interview. “You just don’t get the same audience and energy.”
Then again, to get the whole Smyth experience, you could schedule your time thusly:
Friday: “Nutcracker” live.
Saturday: “Nutcracker” on screen.
Now that we’ve organized your weekend, here are Five Things to Know about Smyth:
1. He’s from Australia.
And, while this might shock those who think “The Nutcracker” is an indelible part of Christmas around the world, that isn’t the case. It’s pretty much a U.S. thing. In Australia, Smyth had very little exposure to the ballet growing up.
“Nowhere else in the world is it like the States,” he says of the popularity of the Tchaikovsky classic. “It’s just like this thing you guys have here.”
Part of it is the weather at Christmas. “In Australia, it’s summer,” he says. “We’re putting shrimp on the barbie.”
Smyth now lives in Los Angeles. Or at least that’s where he packs and unpacks his suitcase when he’s not zipping around the world.
2. He has a diverse resume.
After leaving Australia about 10 years ago at age 17, he’s danced with some of the best known companies in the world: American Ballet Theatre II, Royal Ballet in London and The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. He’s a familiar face on TV, including two stints on the “Got Talent” franchise, coming third in Australia and making the quarter finals in the U.S. He has a knack for the Broadway stage as well, performing for almost a year in the London company of the musical “An American in Paris.”
Along with guest dancing roles with major companies, he is founder of Dance for Humanity, his own company.
3. He’s very fond of State Street Ballet.
“We’ve had this lovely relationship in collaboration throughout the years,” he says of State Street.
Through the Santa Barbara company, he’s gotten to know Fresno over the years, having performed in such productions as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Swan Lake.”
State Street has collaborated extensively with the Valley Performing Arts Council, but always in springtime productions. (VPAC had a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Sacramento Ballet for “Nutcracker.”) This is the first “Nutcracker” production between VPAC and State Street.
4. He loves the little kids in “Nutcracker.”
Remember: There’s no tradition in Australia of the ballet being performed every year, so you don’t see the phenomenon there of small children starting in the youngest roles and working their way up through the ranks.
Smyth finds that custom delightful.
“That’s one of the most magical parts,” he says. “I think it really brings up the energy as well. They’re so enthusiastic and inspired.”
5. He celebrated one of his birthdays at The Annex Kitchen.
Fun fact: Even ballet dancers eat.
Smyth thought the Annex was very good. As for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday: He and the rest of the cast will be partaking of this very American custom at the Elbow Room.