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Ballet West's Nutcracker at Kennedy Center, Dec 2012


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BW is presenting its famous Nutcracker all this week at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, DC. This is the late-1930s production by Willam Christensen for the San Francisco Ballet, which he took with him to Utah in the early 50s (to a university company that eventually became Ballet West in Salt Lake City). I saw this on TV (PBS?) in the mid-1970s and a lot of the unique traits 'came back' to me last nights; these include a Dancing Bear and Ballerina as the Act I Dolls...and a 'carpet trick' during Arabian...and the truly magical touch of giving the leading female child, Clara, a pink tutu, tiara and pointe shoes in Act II. Clara remains the child throughout the ballet -- but looks like a miniature version of Sugarplum Fairy, which is soooooo beautiful. (I've never seen this anywhere else.)

It was a joy to see this gorgeously-designed and clearly-choreographed version at last night's (Dec. 7) performance at the KC Opera House. I selected this particular performance because several of the 'stars' of the Breaking Point TV reality show were dancing in prominent roles last night. The grand pas de deux -- for Sugarplum & her Cavalier in this version -- was beautifully interpreted by Beckanne Sisk (perfect physique, turn-out and manner!) and ultra-handsome Rex Tilton. Rex is an elegant soloist and steady partner but we noticed that he danced slowly and with a pained expression during the coda of the pdd...then did not come out for the final bits of dancing during the Final Waltz for the entire ensemble, Sisk partnered there by Christopher Sellars (the evening's Waltz of the Flowers male lead). So something obviously happened to Rex Tilton during the coda of the pdd; we hope he will be OK and not out of the Sunday matinee, in which he and Sisk are to repeat these leading roles, as per the playbill.

Male soloist honors go to another Breaking Point star: Ronnie Underwood, as lead cavalier of the Act I Waltz of the Snowflakes. WOW! This guy knows how to command (not to say "be a ham"!) a stage. He is a TV star and knows it. Yeah, he also danced and partnered regally. smile.png His Snow Queen was the exquisitely lyrical Jacqueline Straughan. As mentioned above, Christopher Sellars danced Flowers Lead and did so wonderfully, with another great Ballet West female soloist, Sayaka Ohtaki. (She was a big surprise in the recent Paquita performances at NYCity Center. Ohtaki is a name to remember, for sure!) Although not specifically cited in the programme, I recognized Allison DeBona (Breaking Pt star) as one of the four demis in classical tutus in Waltz of Flowers. Finally, one of the biggest applause (and laughter)-getters of the night was Ronald Tilton (Rex's brother) atop the 2-man Mother Ginger...here a huge Marie Antoinette in tall white pompadour wig. Yeah, Breaking Pointers! You all rock!!!

About the children: I wonder if they were all brought in from Ballet West's Academy in Salt Lake City or if they are DC-area kids. Anybody know? The playbill just mentions that Maryland Youth Ballet's facilities were used for the kids' rehearsals but didn't mention which academy's kids were used, although all children's names and roles are cited. By the way, Mary Alyssa Peterson (of ????) is listed as last night's Clara; she did a superb job, as did the hilarious little Fritz, Henry Winn (of ???).

All in all, the Ballet West Nutcracker is a delightful traditional version, played in the midst of ravishingly luxuriosu three-dimensional sets....no ABT-style flats with projections here. And no quirky bees in the midst of the Waltz of the Flowers! No quirks, period. Instead, Ballet West renders pure old-fashioned beauty.

Natalia Nabatova

Washington, DC

p.s. Link to KC web, with casting for remaining performances: http://www.kennedy-c...ts/?event=BNBSD

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I thought this was one of the best Nutcrackers I have seen. I guess since tonight was the closing performance the Rat King got some laughs by doing the gagnum style dance before fighting the Prince. The death scene also had some humor, one of the mouselings tried cardio resuscitation. My friends daughter was one of the youngster performing. She said they auditioned local kids from the area and were coached by Maryland Youth ballet mistress Rhodie Jorgesen. Her daughter takes class in Virginia and the Maryland Youth Ballet kids are busy with their own Nutcracker now.

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To add to cantdance's post: Going way-WAY back, I remember that Ballet West used to come to DC more often during the Bruce Marks years ('80s), e.g., ABDALLAH, SLEEPING BEAUTY, etc. I believe that this is the first time that they bring their famous 'First American NUTCRACKER' to the Kennedy Center.

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Alistair Macaulay (NY Times) mentions Rex Tilton in a review of several Nutcrackers:

To watch multiple “Nutcracker” productions is always a journey of discovery, finding new dancers and refreshing former acquaintances. Watching Ballet West, based in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, during its just concluded “Nutcracker” (choreographed by Willam Christensen) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, it struck me that Rex Tilton may well be the most versatile young male dancer in America.

Thanks to Fall for Dance at City Center, New York saw him in 2009 as the hunky lead beach boy in Nijinska’s work “Les Biches,” and again this year, dancing (with long, relaxed phrases) the noble male role in Marius Petipa’s “Grand Pas” from “Paquita”; that’s already quite a contrast. (He also appears in a reality TV show about the company, “Breaking Pointe,” on CW.)

In Act I on Thursday, he played the crucial mime role of Drosselmeyer, adding particular notes of controlling mischief to the benevolent magic. In Act II, however, he played the mysterious male lead of the Arabian dance, an exotic macho conjurer whose female delight (Allison DeBona) arrives — and magically vanishes — at his command. In the finale he tossed her nonchalantly in the air and caught her again — multiple times — as they circuited the stage.

Mr. Tilton isn’t the sleekest or most dazzling powerhouse in American ballet. He’s a real artist, though, and he projects a different mind in each role.[/Quote]


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Reading Macaulay on Tilton makes me think, I've gotta see this guy!

But I was thinking that the Kennedy Center has a Nutcracker every year, by a different company every year, but at this distance (I live in Chicago), what do I know? Having you been keeping closer track, Natalia?

Sorry for belated answer, Jack. Indeed, the KC features a different classical Nutcracker every year, usually around Thanksgiving or early December. Some have come back every so often, such as the Joffrey, with its gorgeous version set in a grand American home.

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Indeed, the KC features a different classical Nutcracker every year, usually around Thanksgiving or early December. Some have come back every so often, such as the Joffrey, with its gorgeous version set in a grand American home.

I didn't realize this was a policy -- what a fantastic idea!

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Ballet West is at the Kennedy Center again this year and I had a chance to see today's matinee. It was fantastic, truly a treat! I was super impressed with Beckanne Sisk as the Snow Queen. The whole show was so much fun, definitely worth the 2 hour train ride south to DC!

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