by Amy Crocker

The San Francisco Ballet pulls talent from all over the world, and sometimes from its own backyard. Ashley Muangmaithong, a native of Walnut Creek, was accepted into the San Francisco Ballet at age twelve. For seven years, she commuted 45 minutes everyday on Bart. After a one-year apprenticeship with Oregon Ballet Theatre, she returned in 2007 to become a member of the company.

Muangmaithong can currently be seen on stage at the War Memorial Opera House in The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky's holiday ballet has a long history in San Francisco. On Christmas Eve in 1944, the San Francisco Ballet performed the first complete Nutcracker in the United States.

Now in her third season with the San Francisco Ballet, Muangmaithong spoke with SFist about how to watch ballet, the local landmarks in the current Nutcracker, and how ribbons can be real pain.

SFist: San Francisco Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson choreographed a new version of The Nutcracker in 2004. Are there any San Francisco touches to this production
Ashley Muangmaithong: The beginning is set in a Victorian home around Alamo Square and in the second act, in the scenery above you can see a dome shape and I believe it’s based off of the Palace of Fine Arts
SF: Which parts are you dancing this year?
AM: This year I am a snowflake at the end of first act. In the second act, I would either be a Spanish chocolate, a French mirliton, or a flower. There are many casts.
SF: Are any of those parts more difficult than the others?