By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Landon On Stage - Professional Ballet Dancers Take Talents To Dent
Dancing ever since he can remember, Escalon High School sophomore Grant Landon is preparing to take the stage as part of Central West Ballet for the holiday production of 'The Nutcracker' at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

Landon and fellow ballet dancer Sarah Weaver brought a little bit of the holiday magic to Dent Elementary recently, where they read the traditional holiday story, answered questions from their young second grade audience, and also showed a few ballet moves.

Performances at Gallo are Fridays, Dec. 14 and 21 at 7 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays, Dec. 15 and 22; Sundays, Dec. 16 and 23. The Gallo Center for the Arts is at 1000 I St., Modesto and Central West Ballet is the resident ballet company for the center.

Landon, at 15, is portraying the title character Nutcracker soldier as well as the lead Chinese dancer. He admitted it is tough balancing schoolwork with the hectic performance and practice schedule, but it's something he loves doing. He has been a dancer for 11 years, and is the youngest professional dancer in the Central West Ballet.

"It's just what I love, I was always dancing around the house," Landon said.

And though he is several years younger than the majority of the other dance company members, he said age doesn't really come into play when they take the stage.

The son of Stuart and Gretchen (Sipma) Landon, the teen was excited to come back to Dent Elementary and share information about his craft. He attended Dent before moving on to the middle and now high school level.

Fellow dancer Sarah Weaver, a graduate of Hughson High School, said it takes years of practice to perform and she also has multiple parts in the production.

"It can be a struggle," she admitted of keeping all the parts straight initially, but said once you have danced them for many years, it becomes second nature.

The second graders treated to the visit from the dancers at their school will be putting on their own version of The Nutcracker next week and had a number of questions for the pair after Weaver read them the traditional story.

In response to one question, Weaver said they rehearse for a couple of months for each production and she plays the Snow Queen, a snowflake, a flower and more. She has been dancing for 12 years and is 21 years old.

"We practice four or five hours a day, Monday through Friday, six or seven hours a day on Saturday," she added of the packed schedule leading up to a performance.

Landon has been a member of the professional dance company for a little over a year. He took part in The Nutcracker school production while a student at Dent, but now will perform it on a much larger stage.

"I just like the story behind The Nutcracker," he said. "How it's so magical, and the people's faces when they watch it; how their faces light up and they're happy."

There is no dialogue in the Central West Ballet production, only music and dance to tell the story.

The show includes some 150 youngsters, non-company dancers, that will also take part and there are different casts for the different weekends, though the Central West Ballet dancers will be on stage for all the performances.

"You just use different body movements and body language," Landon added of portraying the feelings of the characters throughout the story. "Facial expressions play a huge role, so does your choreography."