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Joffrey Nutcracker 2007


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#1 Treefrog

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 07:45 PM

We caught the final performance of this year's run this afternoon. I hadn't planned on going, but my older daughter bought a $20 student rush ticket, so I was able to use one of the pair we had already. (The rush ticket was on the aisle, third row. My younger daughter claimed that one so she could study the technique up close -- and was thrilled when one of the dancers, Michael Smith, sat next to her for Act II.)

This was my first chance to see Aaron Rogers in a substantial role (Fritz, Snow Prince). He was utterly charming! This is a role that is deeply associated with the beloved Calvin Kitten, so there are big shoes to fill. Rogers was up to the job. He was a suitably bratty Fritz, with vivid acting and light, bouncy steps. His Snow Prince was crisp and charismatic, with an especially impressive suite of pas de chats. (I hesitate to call these "quick" only because the tempo of the music was especially plodding today; I'm not sure whether this was due to the substitute conductor we had, or perhaps a change that new AD Ashley Wheater has instituted.)

Speaking of Wheater ... I assume the credit goes to him for creating a more manly male corps. The Joffrey/Arpino choreography has always seemed especially effeminate to me, e.g. the males in Waltz of the Flowers. (The pink and mauve jackets and tights don't help.) This year the steps didn't change (much), but the quality of the dancing was noticeably stronger and more masculine. Yea!

All three of us independently had the impression that we were perhaps seeing the last Nuts performance of the remarkable partnership between Willy Shives as the Cavalier to Maia Wilkins' Sugarplum. The impression was reinforced when Wheater presented Shives with a magnum of champagne at the bows. This pair has a terrific synergy, and IF our thought is correct they will be missed.

We were happy to be able to see Erica Lynette Edwards dance the Spanish variation. She also is a crowd favorite, and deservedly so. Lots of energy and flair.

#2 motwins8391

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 12:59 PM

Thanks for the post, Treefrog. I was hoping to read some feedback from those who attended this season's run, especially since there seemed to be so many different casts, with many dancers taking on new roles. Is "Nutcracker" deemed too much of a mainstay to merit discussion? I hope not. As Treefrog points out, things are continually evolving. (Yes, hooray for the macho Waltz of the Flowers dancers!)

We attended the 12/30 show as well, as we didn't want to miss Willy Shives' last performance as Nutcracker Prince. He was always such a comfortable, confident and thoughtful presence on stage that he was able to fine-tune and polish the dramatic details to perfection. For instance, the way he would rise out of the mist (as the Snow Scene begins) with such grace and fluidity was magical. His miming of the Nutcracker's story at the beginning of Act II was masterful. And his facial expressions were always honest and pure -- he was never campy. He will be hugely missed. Fortunately he remains as a Joffrey ballet master and mentor. (In another performance, we saw Mauro Villanueva as the Prince -- has Willy Shives passed the mantle on to him? He's also a smooth, confident, musical dancer and his technique is superb.)

Heather Aagard has taken the role of Clara to heart. Her sweetness, joy, curiosity and enthusiasm greatly enhance and legitimize the story. Megan Quiroz as Snow Queen and Coffee: outstanding! Matthew Adamczyk wins the male flexibility award for his Coffee. (Valerie Robin was breathtaking in Coffee as well.) We loved David Gombert's dramatic flair as Mouse King and Soldier; same with Michael Smith as Drosselmeyer.

My only pet peeve: double casting the Nephew/Nutcracker Prince. It ruins the continuity of the story.

#3 Treefrog

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 07:18 PM

Has Shives' retirement been announced, then?

Agree with you about Aagard's Clara.

#4 motwins8391

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 08:05 AM

Has Shives' retirement been announced, then?


Unfortunately, I don't think it's been formally announced, which is a shame as he deserves more notice.

#5 Treefrog

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 10:01 AM

I guess until the company issues official word, it remains in the realm of speculation. Unfortunately, this is not something this company does well. Most times the dancers just slip off into the mists of time; one performance they are there, the next they are not. Such a shame!

But ... it's interesting that my daughters and I developed this idea just from the dancing! That surely says something about the expressiveness of Shives (and Wilkins).

#6 Helene

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 10:04 AM

A presentation of a magnum of champagne to a specific dancer after a performance is "mime" for a retirement, by the usual standards.

#7 Treefrog

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 10:22 AM

I thought so; thanks for clarifying.

#8 motwins8391

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 04:02 PM

Unfortunately, this is not something this company does well. Most times the dancers just slip off into the mists of time; one performance they are there, the next they are not. Such a shame!

Amen!

But ... it's interesting that my daughters and I developed this idea just from the dancing! That surely says something about the expressiveness of Shives (and Wilkins).


Very nicely expressed -- yes, it was palpable!

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 05:53 PM

It has been public knowledge that Shives is a new assistant ballet master on the artistic staff, but the Joffrey has never been a company for announcing Last Performances. The Denise Jackson "Retirement" was a departure from the usual way of Joffrey's doing business.

One of the most ironic of Last Performances was Mark Goldweber's dancing Petrouchka in the title role. His first performance with the company, as a member of Joffrey II, was as the Crow Masquer.


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