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Alberta Ballet's Nutcracker

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An interesting way of attracting visits to the website (assuming that the contest is advertised in the press).

Note that the web site states, "All entries valid regardless of correctness!"
That's MY kind of test! :tiphat:

I was impressed by the information that they perform 23 Nutcrackers a season. Regional touring (also practiced by Miami) is a great way to increase exposure, ticket sales, and the opportunity to dance more often than the home city can sustain on its own.

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I attended The Nutcracker yesterday afternoon in Edmonton. The production itself, choreographed by Mikko Nissinen, is completely conventional, so I won't go into great detail. I wish I could tell you how much of this production was grafted onto his subsequent staging for Boston Ballet, but I haven't seen that version.

As far as I can tell, Alberta Ballet is labouring under all sorts of injuries and is struggling to fill all the roles, despite the presence of eight additional dancers from Ballet British Columbia. So many cast changes were announced before the start of performance that I simply couldn’t keep track of them all. Several dancers seemed fit enough to do the party scene, but not act 2.

Yukichi Hattori was excellent as the Nutcracker, soaring in the battle scene and using his hands very expressively in the second-act mime. Unfortunately, his scheduled partner was injured. Being too short to partner replacement Sandrine Cassini, Hamilton Nieh was her cavalier instead. In principle I don’t object to this sort of shuffle since I have never liked combining the Nutcracker and the SPF’s Cavalier in one role. After that big battle scene it seems very ungallant for the Nutcracker to abandon Clara in favour of the SPF. Nieh, though talented and equipped with a fine looking set of legs, was obviously a last minute replacement. He got through the adagio with only a couple of glitches, but his solo and the coda were cut, and the SPF’s variation was moved to earlier in the act à la Balanchine. Ungallant or no, I do wish I'd had the opportunity to see Hattori in the grand pas de deux because I’m guessing he would have been spectacular.

Among the other dancers, Anthony Pina, who recently graduated from the Onassis School, was very good as the Harlequin and in the Chinese dance. He's light and speedy, with all sorts of flexibility and high elevation. Reid Bartelme, who has a fluid movement style, was also good in the Arabian dance, though I think he should consider using some body make-up before going bare-chested in harem pants. As it stands he’s just too blond and too pale for the part. Meanwhile his partner, Alexis Maragozis, was burdened by a dreadful costume. She may be Alberta Ballet's most agressively sensual dancer, but she's not especially tall or elongated and looked as though she'd disappear under all the beads on her bodice. She looked much more at ease in the simple tutu of the Snow Queen. It’s definitely time for Alberta Ballet to mount a new Nutcracker, if for no other reason than to get rid of the awful costumes by Paul Daigle in the current production. He manages to make all but the thinnest women look buxom and chunky, which certainly doesn't make for convincing snowflakes.

The Russian dance was disappointing, despite of the loud ovation. I can’t believe that the company is completely lacking in dancers with good barrel turns. But the Flowers acquitted themselves well, with Ballet BC's Fei Guo as a delicate Butterfly, and Makaila Wallace from Ballet BC, Igor Chornovol and Kelley McKinlay did a good Spanish dance. In general I have to say that the dancers look much more comfortable performing academic choreography than they have in years past. They'd always look confident and uninhibited in contemporary ballets, but as soon as the Nutcracker rolled around they'd get that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. I’m guessing that new ballet mistress Flavia Vallone is a positive influence. Since she’s spent most of her career dancing at La Scala, she also knows a thing or two about projecting in a large theatre such as the Jubilee Auditorium, which has been a weak spot of AB dancers in the past.

Naturally, there were lots of kids in the audience. It would be sensible for regional companies to program another kid friendly ballet in late spring of each season to attract the pre-teen crowd. This season Alberta Ballet will be aiming to do that by reviving its Cinderella. Until then I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will survive its forthcoming Nutcrackers in Calgary and Vancouver.

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Here's to wishes coming true. I really should stop being a snob and read the Edmonton Sun more often.


Next year will be last show of this particular production.

And there's talk of bringing Alberta Ballet's delightful Alice in Wonderland (created by [ballet master Edmund] Stripe from Lewis Carroll's classic adventure) here along with The Nutcracker next year.

In any case, in the following year after that, in 2008, you'll see a different production of The Nutcracker "with new sets, costumes and choreography - new everything," said Stripe.

Well thank heavens for that :)

And another interesting piece of Nutcracker news.

The Secret of the Nutcracker, a high-definition movie to be aired on CBC television next year, is the first project of the newly formed Woman's Guild of Creation.

The made-in-Alberta film will use local settings and talent, including dance scenes directed and performed by Alberta Ballet from their annual holiday classic The Nutcracker.

The Secret of the Nutcracker also adds new layers to a story that has been told primarily through ballet. Written by John Murrell, the screenplay is based on E.T.A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Edmonton composer John Estacio will interpret Tchaikovsky's score for the film, which will cast actors in the roles of Drosselmeyer, Clara and her family.

The Secret of the Nutcracker will tell the tale of 12-year-old Clara - who lives in the Rocky Mountain town of Snowy Valley - and her magical Christmas journey to rescue her father from a Second World War prisoner-of-war camp. The show will be produced by Calgary-based Joe Media group and broadcast nationally on CBC in December 2007, with subsequent international release on DVD.

"Our main objective is to help put Alberta Ballet on the international stage," said Millie Kim, one of the guild's founding members, yesterday.

The guild will dedicate themselves to bringing in new creations for ballet. For example: the aforementioned movie, and a commissioning of a new Nutcracker ballet in 2008-2009.

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