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Nutcracker


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 10:56 AM

Did anyone go to the opening?

Paul Parish reviews the opening night of San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker in DanceView Times:

Happy as Snow: A Joyous Nutcracker Opening

The first act is long, but it has a powerful sweep to it. The party scene swells and subsides, the kids get their presents and get over-stimulated, the Grandfather Dance rounds things off, the guests go home good and tired, and Clara can't sleep, comes looking for the Nutcracker, dozes off, the tree grows spectacularly (very good tree). The battle scene has been kitsched up so it's rather thick, but Clara (Jessica Lester) stood up to the Mouse King bravely. From there things pick up decidedly.

Christensen's Snow scene is superlative. The change of scene is an unveiling, the pas de deux is brilliant and thrilling—huge overhead lifts that traverse the stage, with travelling terre-a-terre steps that sweep round it.  It's a magnificent change of pace to see movement on such a grand scale by people who can use all that space. Christensen's greatest gift was his musicality, and after that came an unerring sense of when to move beneath yourself and when to travel. What makes the snow pas so CLEAN is the way the dancers scour the stage. The two dancers use ALL the space, and then, when the music speeds up, the storm of snowflakes whirls and scurries and eddies in an enormously satisfying way. The dancers spring and dart and careen around themselves at top speed, they come whistling in in little pas de basques bent over, brushing the floor with their hands, and fly out of that with lacy footwork that reminds me of Ashton's: VERY fast accurate footwork that's quite, quite different from Balanchine's style. And snowflakes are falling from the flies so thick it's like visible laughter, and then things calm down, the snow queen (Julie Diana) sweeps round the stage gently in turns on half-toe, whirls in a supported pirouette, opens out into attitude and extends her arms as if to offer the entire proceedings to us all as the ballet's Christmas present to the community. Diana is entirely capable of making a grand gesture like this—indeed, it matched Jim Sohm's at the beginning of the act, when (as Drosselmeyer, standing in front of a forecurtain) he doffed his hat to us all and invited us to come inside and see the show.



#2 Alexandra

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 10:59 AM

Ann Murphy in the Chronicle:

'Nutcracker' profits from new sugar-high pacing

Out of this mishmash, Tomasson has kept "Nutcracker" alive and, in small ways in the last several years, improved a sometimes dreary ballet that can easily bog down in the mime-heavy Act 1, then turn into a high-end vaudeville routine in Act 2. By hastening the pace of the first half Friday, with the ballet's prelude played at a gallop, Tomasson made sure no one was ready to go home at intermission. And with the dancing hurtling onward in Act 2, we could feel the rush of the music, with its allusions to sleighs flying over moonlit snow, mirrored in the dance.

Thanks to this energized tempo, almost all the dancers seemed freed to dance. Clara (Jessica Lester) and Fritz (Django Allegretti) assumed their roles as 19th century children with a spark of 21st century authenticity and charm, especially when Lester cried like a spoiled child, or when Fritz tried to lunge at his sister and got caught by the waist by his dad. Ashley Wheater played an aptly stuffy Dr. Stahlbaum against Anita Paciotti's warm, witty Frau Stahlbaum, forging a more believable couple than "Nutcracker" has produced in a long time.



#3 lillianna

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:19 PM

I attended opening night. I am not sure what was different but the party scene didn't seem to drag as much as I thought it did last year. This is still not my favorite version of Nutcracker, but I enjoyed the performance. I loved Julie Diana and Zack Hench as Snow Queen and King. Julie Diana is an exquisite dancer, she is so graceful and beautiful that it is breathtaking to watch. I also enjoyed the Russian dance lead by Pascal Molat --lots of fun, I hated to see it end so soon, but it is such a high energy dance that I'm sure it couldn't go on much longer. I was not as impressed with Yuan Yuan Tan as I usually am. She had a few smiles but seemed a little unsure. She didn't complete the fouette combination at the end had a very hard landing out of it. But overall a wonderful show.

I also saw the Saturday Matinee. I enjoyed Katido Waldo as Snow Queen also. The Snow Pas is very nice. Stephen Norman's backflips in Russian add to the daring of the dance. Lorena Feijoo was Sugar Plum , she never has problems with her turns. Sugar Plum doesn't suite her style of dance as well as the Kitri-type roles do, but she was beautiful in the role.

#4 dirac

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Posted 18 December 2003 - 04:30 PM

Thank you for the report, lillianna. I'm giving myself a break and not going this year, but it's nice to hear how everyone is doing. :wink:

#5 lillianna

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Posted 21 December 2003 - 02:57 PM

The dancers and company of SFB showed true grit last evening as they danced the Nutcracker during a blackout in San Francisco. Performing to emergency lights illuminating the audience, the company completed the Nutcracker performances to a sold out house. The dancers dressed by emergency lights. Some dressing rooms had no lights and dancers dressed in hallways. The show went on.

The Sunday matinee , however, had to be cancelled as the blackout continued. While the company was ready to go the Opera House sprinkler system was not, necessitating the cancelled performance. Lights are still out in and around the Opera House at 3 PM PST, the evening performance is now the concern.

#6 Paul Parish

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Posted 21 December 2003 - 04:09 PM

Hey lilliana, thanks for the report -- this is hte first I I've heard of it, so even though it's just across hte Bay, Ballet Alert once again has the news first!

They ARE a brave group of dancers -- I once saw Muriel Maffre do the adage of Symphony in C during an earthquake, it was magnificent the way she maintained her concentration and focus and led hte whole company through it. There were several aftershocks -- about all she noticed of it was that she rolled down from pointe once. She REALLY got an ovation that day.

Who was dancing during ht blackout? Any mishaps? At what point did hte lights og out? Before the show started, o during? By the way, you seem to know some of the inside stuff -- do you knw who that TINY litle girl was in hte first act opening night? I bet that child can do entrechats quatres -- she was SO precocious!

#7 djb

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Posted 21 December 2003 - 11:04 PM

I totally disagree that the sped-up music in the first act is an improvement. I don't think the music sounds better, and in some sections the kids could barely keep up with the music.

I was at the Saturday night blackout performance, and enjoyed it very much. Hardly anyone had makeup on, and no one had wigs/hairpieces, because of the unavailability of the dressing rooms. I think there was a special feeling to the performance that often happens when performances go on in adverse circumstances.

Later it struck me as funny that all these people (the audience) are in the middle of a blackout, out on the street you can smell the smoke from the fire that caused the blackout, and we're all hanging around expecting that the show will go on anyway!

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 22 December 2003 - 08:18 AM

And the show did go on! (It's like waiting at the airport in a blizzard. I have the ticket; the plane MUST take off!)

I hope everyone is all right. Blackouts can be frightening and unpleasant.

Thanks for the reports on this, lillianna and djb -- did the evening show go on?

#9 lillianna

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Posted 23 December 2003 - 10:01 AM

Yes, the evening show did go on. The matinee had to be cancelled due to a malfunctioning sprinkler system , probably due to the blackout. But they got the system functioning by evening. So, although the blackout continued, they performed to a sold out crowd. There were many very disappointed people about the matinee, but it is so amazing the the other shows went on.
The power went out before the evening show on Saturday night. The blackout started at 6 and the show was scheduled for 7. Of course, when power goes out, it usually comes right back on. They weren't concerned immediately until they realized that it was going to be a long process to get power again. They had to make a lot of quick decisions. Going on without makeup was one of them because there was no emergency power to the rooms used for makeup. The students from the school had dressing rooms in the basement. After receiving a warning that they would have to divert the power from the dressing rooms to the stage, their only light went out. They had one flashlight between them ( I'm talking about the advanced kids not little ones) so got around by the backlights from their cell phones. They took turns holding the flashlight on dancers dressing for Snow and Flowers so managed to be ready with a group effort. They were all cold though and so didn't feel that their muscles were ready for the show but they had enough adrenalin to get them through. By Sunday most had obtained flashlights so were a little more prepared to get ready and dance in the dark. The Sugar Plum and Cavalier on Saturday night were Katida Waldo and Moises Martin and on Sunday Night it was Tina LeBlanc and Gennadi. They danced with worklights on the stage.
By Monday's matinee, the power was restored and everything went as planned.


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