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Just when you think it's safe to be jaded, to think "ho, hum, "Nutcracker", snooze", Alastair Macaulay goes to Arizona and writes:

To date this and Willam Christensen’s production at Ballet West in Salt Lake City have been the best discoveries of my “Nutcracker” Marathon Tour.

I hate when that happens.

He also wrote,

I’ve been much impressed by the poised, super-elegant and calmly dazzling Vanessa Zahorian (San Francisco Ballet) and the luminously youthful Jillian Barrell (Ballet Arizona). In other productions Ms. Barrell would fit in as Clara. But this versatile artist finds different colors in different choreography. (She was a rapidly explosive Dew Drop at a matinee.) And when she dances Sugar Plum, her light, crystalline purity led me back to the ballet’s central kernel: innocence.

It is very gratifying to see national recognition for this lovely, young dancer who was striking in smaller roles, among them "Four Temperaments" and "La Valse", before assuming leads.

Did anyone see the production live? Please tell us about it if you did :beg:

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Definately, I have been remiss, ignoring Ballet Talk in favor of life administration! These performances continue to linger in my mind, so I'll write, though Nut season is long gone.

This was a fine production, as ever, which continues to hold up after several years of repeated viewings. A strength of the dancers is that they don't dial it in, "Ho hum, another Nutcracker." Rather, it is done full out, with charecter and involvement, in every role. The exception was a certain new dancer who did not seem to get the memo on this, unfortunately, bringing no charecter to her Sugar Plum, but I'll not mention her name -- perhaps she was just getting acclimated, and had other distactions. We welcome her to Phoenix, and look forward to future performances.

Impressed on my memory, these months later, was the take-no-prisioners, Sugar-Plum-Smackdown, Natalia-is-in-the-building performance of Natalia Magnicaballi. Perhaps tired of the attention paid to fresh faces, Ms. Magnicaballi gave notice -- she can do it all. In her series one-footed-releves (foundu croise front, pirouette, attitude turn, if memory serves) followed by a series of chaines, she was titanium -- light, strong,creating beautiful shapes, and with a shimmer all her own. My favorite moment was actually a mistake: in a series of fouettes, she went off her leg, then pulled right back into alignment, seemingly through sheer force of will. A lesser personality, or one with less command of her body, would have been forced to fall out and cover as best she could. She remains fascinating, no matter what role, with a depth of interest and involvement that few can match.

The production continues to stand up to several years of repeated viewing. The costumes are sumptious, the scenery beautiful, and the choreography is tight,though imitative of Balanchine. The Claras and Princes do their parts justice, and are darling and charming as they should be. Their choreography, however, is a notable weakness of the production. Every year, I hope Mr. Andersen will fix this, yet he does not. During the ballroom scenes, the chasses and simple moves of the children are fine for moving the plot along and providing visual interest. Apart from the ballroom scene -- the battle scene, the scene where they ride the sled through the starry skies, and the retelling of the story to the Sugar Plum, the choreography is more blocking than dancing. For instance, in the battle scene, Clara spends most of her time running in a big circle, with her hands over her head or just crying in the corner. In the meeting of the two and getting on the sleigh, there is no dancing at all. The Prince bows and presents her with her crown, then they pretty much just wait for the sleigh. This is a nifty bit, as the sleigh is apparantly magic, self-propelled and directed, with no horses or helpers, but would be no less nifty if preceeded by some dancing.

Ballet Arizona does have good news to share -- finally, finally, years after the voters approved the City of Phoenix bond for a new facility, a building has been purchased, near the airport. There is hope that they will be in the new space within 2 years.

Edited by Arizona Native
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Our rule is simple: if there is news, it must have a citation from an official source and be available publicly, unless it is posted by someone who has "Editorial Advisor" or "Foreign Correspondent" in bold, green, italic under his or her board name. The source can be written -- ex: interview or article in the mainstream press or book, press release, substitution slip in the program, written in the program, company website, dancer's or company's public Facebook page (not dancers' personal pages where they vet Friends requests), company or dancer's Tweet -- oral -- ex: Q&A, public speech, curtain announcement -- or a generally understood gesture -- ex: giving extra flowers and taking extra solo bows after a last performance, which appears to be Ballet Arizona's MO.

"I heard it from the dancer" is not an official source, unless she said it in a Q&A or other public presentation.

There are a lot of insiders on this board, and apart from a very few Editorial Advisors and Foreign Correspondents, who must have official sources, even if they don't have to cite them, they are all held to the same standard. Even I as an Administrator am not exempt from this policy.

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I should also have mentioned that local product Chelsea Saari was bumped up to Lilac Fairy this year. The company does not recognize levels or promotions, but this would seem to indicate that we can expect to see Ms. Saari in higher-profile roles, going forward. In any event, it's always nice to see dancers' progress and have addtional opportunities.

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Saari really struck me as one of the the "fates" in "La Valse". She was the one who heard the Sirens' song. I'm glad to see that she is getting major parts.

The only time I've ever heard of rankings in the company is when they differentiate apprentices and trainees in the program and when there is a newspaper article that calls someone by their rank.

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