Last Saturday a couple of friends and I went out to near suburban Park Ridge to see Ballet Chicago Studio Company dance their "Nutcracker highlights" program, which I've written about here before. The Pickwick Theatre stage proved to be small enough that the dancers looked a little tentative, apparently not having quite enough space to let themselves out fully, but there were some pluses: The 28-piece Park Ridge Civic Orchestra, including a few Chicago Symphony Orchestra players and including a harp and celeste, was in the pit, instead of having recorded music, and Alicia Fabry was in the cast. Her dancing this time was among the best I've seen her do, clear, flowing, finished, detailed and light, in spite of the circumstances, every angle of every limb and finger, even, seemingly arranged to give us a rich and lively experience as she went along. "She's the best one up there" and "She's a real ballerina" were my friends' enthusiastic comments.
Fabry danced only the Dewdrop or, here, the "Dew Fairy" role, choreographed by Daniel Duell, as was most of the of the performance, owing to lack of time to rehearse with a partner; she is becoming a kind of alumna of Ballet Chicago and was here only briefly during a break in the schedule of Carolina Ballet's performances of their Nutcracker in which she has been dancing. (Please, God, make somebody there post about that.) So the evening ended on a plateau, with Fabry's superb solos in the "Waltz of the Flowers" followed by greater choreography, Balanchine's "Sugar Plum" adagio, two variations by Duell, and then Balanchine's coda, danced by Megan Wright and Jake Laub more simply, though with many virtures, but not on Fabry's level, before the Finale. (I also want to mention Margo Ruter's sumptuously seductive rendition of "Arabian Coffee" as the standout, for us, among the divertissements.)
(Someone reading this next season might like to know that the Pickwick seats by general admission, so if you go, get there at 6:00 PM.)
The following evening we three watched the 1993 NYCB Nutcracker video. My friends were suitably impressed with Kistler's precision and agreed that Nichols was comparably excellent in a different way not so easy to find the right words for; I think this is consistent with my feeling that Nichols is the better of the two in this performance: The more excellent the art the harder it is to catch in words. My friends also enjoyed the greater musical sensitivity of the Balanchine version, along with the generally spectacular ability of the dancers, and one volunteered the idea that Duell's troupe demonstrated that musically aware choreography suited to his dancer's abilities can also provide a very satisfying experience.
I expect somewhat different satisfactions when BCSC repeats the program in the Athenaeum Theatre this weekend, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 and Sunday at 3: Without Fabry and the orchestra, but with their accustomed space to move through. And the matinees will probably feature some very small performers among the mice, as I've noted in the past.
Ballet Chicago Studio Company 2005 "Nutcracker"
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