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Simone Messmer (ABT) in Ballet Chicago's Nutcracker

Jack Reed

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She dances Sugar Plum Fairy in the "restored" Balanchine SP pas de deux, at the end of Act II - Adagio, Male Variation (choreography by Daniel Duell*), Female Variation, Coda - in that order, with Ted Seymour; the rest of this production is mostly Daniel Duell's choreography with some by Patricia Blair. (Duell, of course, danced in Balanchine's NYCB, and Blair in the Eglevsky Ballet when Edward Villella was the Artistic Director.) Both choreographers show considerable musical awareness, IMO, if not to the degree Mr. B. did. This slightly abridged Nutcracker is unlike his in omitting Drosselmeier's Nephew, shortening the Battle scene considerably, but adding a Snow Pas de Deux (to the Pine Forest music) before the corps appear.

Ballet Chicago, Chicago's Balanchine-oriented ballet school, will give three more performances of this production this weekend at 2 and 7 on Saturday the 22nd and at 2:30 on Sunday the 23rd, in the 950-seat Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport Avenue. Box Office: 773-935-6875. Web site: www.athenaeumtheatre.org.

*When I first posted this, I was under the mistaken impression that we had the seldom-seen Balanchine Cavalier's Variation here. I regret my error.

Edited by Jack Reed
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I've been having the similar if smaller pleasure of seeing her grow into this role; I gather Friday night was her debut in it, not last weekend, as I had thought might have been. The rare bobbles become rarer; the role comes even more into focus and gleams more steadily. (She, and the rest of these performances, is getting uncommonly good and steady lighting in this theater this time, too, speaking of gleaming.)

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