Annual ‘Nutcracker’ a family affair

The Rochin family,clockwise from left, Eric, Deborah, Gabriella, 13, and Sofia, 9. The Malibu family performed in the Pacific Festival Ballet's "The Nutcracker" at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Sunday.

Holiday traditions are as numerous and varied as the families that celebrate them, but few match one particular to the Rochins. For these 20-plus-years Malibu residents, the holiday season begins early in September, when auditions and rehearsals for Pacific Festival Ballet’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker” get underway. So just as the leaves are turning, but long before there’s a chill in the air, all of the Rochins- Eric, Deborah Collodel, and their two daughters, Gabriella, 13, and Sofia, 9-begin preparing for the annual holiday show.

For the Rochins, dance is an integral part of their legacy, and, in fact, where their family’s story began.

A former member of the Joffrey Ballet, Eric, who danced the role of Clara’s magical Uncle Drosselmeyer in the company’s performance on Sunday, first met Deborah when the two trained with the internationally renown Stanley Holden. No stranger to the dance world (Deborah left home at age 15 to pursue a professional career, training under, among others, the legendary Bella Lewitzky in Los Angeles), Deborah joined her husband on stage Sunday as the Arabian Ambassador’s Wife. Sunday’s “Nutcracker” cast also featured their children, Gabriella (as a Baker’s Assistant and mouse) and Sofia (in the role of Petite Cotton Candy). In all, the family danced in six performances.

“It’s hectic, but it’s a perfect way to kick off the season,” Deborah said.

The Rochins’ day jobs provide no clues to the family’s ongoing ballet heritage. They own the Malibu Motel, and Eric Rochin is at the helm of Wild Man Build and Design, a company he started after rebuilding a home the family lost in the Malibu fires of 1993. But dance is evident in their perfect posture, the twinkle in their eyes, and each one’s dramatic flair and sparkle.

“I’ve known Eric and Deborah personally and professionally for more than 25 years,” said Kim Maselli, Pacific Festival Ballet’s creative director. “I love what they bring to the stage, and am so excited that the entire family performed with us again this year.”

“For some families, the holidays start with decorating a tree, lighting candles, or hanging out stockings,” Deborah said. “For us, it’s Band-Aids and blisters, and costume fittings and rehearsals.

“We couldn’t be happier,” she added.