It’s Sugar Plum On The Hill Weekend In Los Alamos With Third Ballet In Trilogy

Sugar Plum on “The Hill” rehearsal in full swing. Photo by Brad Henderson

Artistic Director Jonathan Guise, who wrote all three ballets in the trilogy, leads a dancer through Monday’s rehearsal. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Rats and mice alike were part of Monday evening’s rehearsal. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Many people make the Nutcracker ballet part of their Christmas tradition but few have the opportunity to enjoy the first Nutcracker Trilogy in the history of dance performance. And that trilogy is a fantasy loosely based on the history of our town that engages young and old.

This weekend, Dance Arts Los Alamos will proudly present the culmination of a nine-year artistic journey, Sugar Plum on “The Hill”. Artistic Director Jonathan Guise began with writing the first of the three ballets “Nutcracker on “The Hill” where he first introduced us to Oppie, Gwen Groves and a mysterious spy’s long three-chapter adventure.

In Nutcracker on “The Hill” the mysterious spy travels through time back to Christmas Eve 1944 to infiltrate a holiday party hosted by Oppie and General Groves at Fuller Lodge. The Spy steals a top secret file and is then chased to the Land of Sweets by Oppie and Gwen. The first chapter ends in the conflict that unfolds when the Rat Queen conquers the throne of the Sugar Plum and the evil spy Godsend kidnaps Gwen.

The second chapter, Ratcracker on “The Hill,” begins with another Christmas celebration but in the Land of Sweets in honor of the Rat Queen, our heroes sneak into the party to rescue their new friend the mysterious Spy and the Nutcracker. They make it back to Los Alamos but not without loss as the Sugar Plum is captured by the Rat Queen and turned to evil. The new evil Sugar Plum turns the Land of Sweets to darkness. Meanwhile, back in the real world of Los Alamos Oppie and the Spy search high and low for Gwen Groves while dancers are enjoying the after party at Fuller Lodge.

After finding Gwen, Godsend fights back by trying to take the Nutcracker for himself. During the fight the Nutcracker breaks sending Oppie, Gwen, and the Spy back to the beginning of the story, and that is where Sugar Plum on “The Hill” begins. Oppie, Gwen, and the Spy time jump through different points in Los Alamos history as the ballet begins in 1932 at Ashley Pond during a hockey game between the Ranch Boys and the Santa Fe School.

“Will our heroes make it back to the Land of Sweets and restore it to its former glory by helping the Sugar Plum restore her light? Every story must come to an end, and DALA is so excited to share the conclusion of the Nutcracker on ‘The Hill’ trilogy with our community,” Guise said.

Nutcracker on “The Hill” is the 2022 recipient of the New Mexico Historical Society Dorothy Woodward Award for historical excellence. While every year there are new dancers and performers, some like Todd Haagenstad who portrays Oppenheimer are veterans of the trilogy. The Good Sugar Plum Fairy is played by senior Sonja Ebey. The Evil Sugar Plum Fairy is performed by senior Erin Gattis. The Snow Queen is portrayed senior Andrea Rivera while

Some of the more interesting parts include Kogo, the Japanese Empress performed by senior Andrea Chapman. Rani, the Hindu Queen, is danced by another senior Becca Massa. The Rat Queen is danced by senior Jadie Gonzales .The role of Dew Drop will be performed by Violet Henderson.

DALA has also invited two guest artists, Joseph Moore as the Cavalier and Finleigh Culloton as the Snow King. 

Sugar Plum on the Hill will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Duane Smith Auditorium.

Ticket are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Children 3 and younger will be admitted for free. Tickets can be purchased at the door or through DALA, Village Arts, Little Studio on the Mesa and Los Alamos Historical Society.

Venita Chavez and Michelangelo Lobato dance during Monday’s rehearsal. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Scene from Sugar Plum on “The Hill” rehearsals this wee. Photo by Brad Henderson

Scene from Monday evening’s rehearsal at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Scene from Monday evening’s rehearsal. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Scene from Monday evening’s rehearsal. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Scene from Monday’s rehearsal. Photo by Maire O’Neill/