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Thursday, December 12


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A preview of Grand Rapids Ballet Company's Nutcracker.

"'Nutcracker' is the time to put dancers in a new role for the first time," said artistic director Patricia Barker. "The strength is in the veterans and in the roles they've danced before.

Dawnell Dryja and Stephen Sanford, who both have been with Grand Rapids Ballet for more than 10 years, will dance the Grand Pas de Deux as Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince for the very first time together on Friday.

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An interview with Sara Mearns.

No wonder. She's been doing ballet since she was 3 years old and, she says, "it's something I use to express myself, and that's when I feel free, that's when I feel I'm at my best. I'm a huge lover of classical music. The music really moves me and allows me to be whoever I want to be and make up stories in my head. I get to explore and imagine."

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An interview with Alexei Ratmansky.

He works almost constantly. “I do a lot and maybe too much, actually,” he adds, laughing. “On the other hand, I really feel better when I don’t stop. There are stops, of course, between big projects, but if I don’t do anything for half a year or longer, it feels like I am losing the touch.

“If you look at the history books, some choreographers just kept doing it. It also gives me a chance to try to be different and experiment. If something doesn’t work this time, I use the idea next time and try it with a different angle. I think you learn by doing.”

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A story on the Paiva family's multigenerational involvement with Richmond Ballet's Nutcracker.

Terry performed in “The Nutcracker” in the days before the Richmond Ballet became a professional company, and he acknowledged that Anthony is dancing in a far higher-budget, more elaborate production. Another difference: Anthony is not subject to nearly as much teasing as he experienced in the 1960s and 1970s as a boy participating in ballet.

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Reviews of the English National Ballet's Nutcracker.

The Independent

The Nutcracker is a core part of English National Ballet, which dances it every Christmas. The current staging has muddled storytelling, with some bizarre divertissement dances and a confusing switch in the hero’s identity. Peter Farmer’s costumes are pretty, with Edwardian party dresses and sparkly tutus, but his scenery is drab.

The Telegraph

There are nice touches. I love the skating guests, the colourful hot air balloon, the pretty Mirliton and the way the wicked mice knock over the soldiers like skittles with a piece of flying cheese. But overall confusion reigns. That the evening remains a pleasure – and it does – is entirely down to the charm, warmth and skill of ENB’s dancers, particularly Daria Klimentova as the adult Clara and Vadim Muntagirov as her idealised Prince.

The Arts Desk

There has been ample time since for polishing, but no amount of polishing can fix structural flaws, and this ballet has a fatal one in the shape of its frankly bizarre story treatment. It’s not uncommon to have two versions of Clara and two Nutcrackers, but the half-time switch-around here is awkward, disrupting the flow of the story as well as the audience’s relationship to the characters. The survival of the Mouse King (pictured below) until well into the second act (he normally snuffs it after a 10-minute battle in Act One) is also regrettable; its tepidly evil capers are distracting rather than diverting.


ENB dances Wayne Eagling’s version of the story, the creation of which was agonisingly depicted in the BBC’s Agony and Ecstasy docu-series in 2011. It’s easy to see why, in a nut-heavy market, Eagling felt the need to update the story and structure – but not all of his updates are improvements.

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An interview with Alina Cojocaru.

She was “much happier” with ENB. “I feel wonderfully energised at being in a team with my new colleagues and my daily life is much more fun. The feeling of energy rubs off. It’s just that feeling when you can smile when you go to work.” There was no single reason for quitting the Royal Ballet and it was difficult to think about it, she said. “It just came to that point where I knew something had to change,” she said. “Maybe in one or two years I will be able to look back without emotions, without sadness, without hurt at what happened.” Her fiance Johan Kobborg, 41, who also quit the Royal Ballet unhappily, was this weekend appointed as director of Romanian National Ballet.

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A look at the Colorado Ballet casting of this year's Nutcracker by Erica Prather for 303 Magazine.

Watching this performance was like watching an entirely different company. Even though Klara Houdet is a newcomer to Colorado Ballet, joining the company in 2012, I had yet to spy her generous stage presence and luxurious extensions from the uniformity of the corps de ballet until she danced the role of Clara for the first time this evening. She was giddy and believably childlike in the Party Scene, but once the snow started to fall, Houdet’s experience was obvious. She was an absolute thrill to watch; it felt like she came out of nowhere. I looked at the program and said out loud, “Who?” followed shortly by, “Oh. Damn. Wow.”

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A preview of Memphis Ballet's Nutcracker.

This year’s production — with more than 100 dancers and 70 musicians — will be the most successful run of “Nutcracker” that Ballet Memphis has had, the company says, with a record 10,000 expected to see it, based on ticket sales. And this in a year when the flashy Moscow Ballet brought “Nutcracker” to town late last month.

It’s the third year in a row that the Memphis Symphony Orchestra has been in the pit, providing the extra dimension of live music.

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Fabrice Calmels talks about his workout regime to Joseph Spring of Men's Journal.

Just as pro sports are embracing bigger athletes with more exaggerated body types, many artistic directors at ballet companies are employing bigger lead dancers, in part to employ taller female leads. Guys like Fabrice Calmels, the 6-foot-6 1/2, 220-pound lead dancer at Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, have an uphill battle – they're often less flexible, a bit slower, and not as coordinated as shorter dancers. "I really worked on my workout to improve my speed and coordination, where they had to put me in the same map with people who were half my height," says Calmels.

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Portland Ballet refurbishes its Nutcracker.

The unique version has worked well for Portland Ballet, and the company’s artistic director Eugenia O’Brien isn’t interested in reinventing it.

“Having said that, we felt it was important to breathe new life into it to further show off where the company has come in the last 20 years. We’re a very different company now than we were then, and we want to show that off,” she said. “We had an artistic visioning meeting, where we addressed some of the spots we felt could be enhanced. It needed to be freshened up.”

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A review of San Francisco Ballet by Allan Ulrich in The San Francisco Chronicle.

The grand pas de deux is the one that strikes sparks when done brilliantly. That was the case here: There was Maria Kochetkova, whose Russian training yielded opulent arabesques, flicking beats and pristine fouettés. Cavalier Joan Boada (the Nutcracker Prince) caught her leaping on his shoulder (twice) and held her in those applause-generating fish dives. Boada brought a sensitive touch to his Act 1 solo (a cousin to the first solo in Balanchine's "Apollo").

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A feature on Joy Womack's departure from the Bolshoi by Katie Urbaszewski for The Austin American-Statesman.

While back home in the Austin area, Womack related some of the issues she encountered in her year and a half with the Bolshoi Ballet.

The $10,000 asked of her would have gone to the director personally – whom she declined to name last week as well as in all other interviews – but another director told her more gently that she would have to find a sponsor to succeed in the company, Womack said.

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A preview of Columbia City Ballet's Nutcracker.

Starrett is also looking to top last year’s record ticket sales. The 2012 production of “The Nutcracker” sold the most tickets since the Columbia City Ballet first performed it 53 years ago, and this year’s show may be on track to do the same. The production has seen record audiences for tour performances in Lancaster, Sumter and Savannah.

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Q&A with Isabella Boylston, who is currently performing with the Royal Danish Ballet.

How is the general speed of the company compared to ABT or New York City Ballet?

The rehearsal process has been completely different from what I'm used to. I've probably had about five or six stage rehearsals, and several with orchestra, which is unheard of in ABT because we don't have our own theater. The dancers here work hard in class, just like at ABT.

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An interview with Angel Laza, currently guesting with Canyon Concert Ballet.

Luckily, the Ballet de Monterrey welcomed Laza in with open arms, making him a principal dancer. After nine years there, Laza decided to continue to expand his experiences as an artist and came to the United States last year, but he said it hasn’t been easy. For a while, the man who spent his life training to be a professional dancer instead was cooking in a restaurant and working as a delivery man in an effort to send money to his wife and son, who are still in Mexico, as well as to his family in Cuba.

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A preview of Smuin Ballet's "The Christmas Ballet."

A new creation by choreographer Robert Dekkers, "The Bells," is a wonderful addition to the classical lineup. Set to the traditional song "The Carol of the Bells," the piece demands speed, precision and extraordinary energy from its cast of three men and three women. The structure of the dance loosely follows the structure of the song, with the dancers moving between harmony, canon and unison.

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A preview of the Liaoning Ballet in "Spartacus."

"This version is exactly the same as the version we staged at the Bolshoi Theatre. No changes whatsoever. The conductor is the principal conductor of Bolshoi, and the stage design- we did that in Russia and brought all of it here to Beijing," choreographer Yury Grigorovich says.

Yury Grigorovich says the work is seldom produced outside Russia, as it demands so much from the male dancers. He couldn't imagine that Liaoning Ballet only rehearsed for two months.

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A preview of Columbus Dance Theatre's "Matchgirl."

In the tale, a poor girl sells matches on the cold street of a nameless city on New Year’s Eve. Trying to keep warm, she begins to light the matches. As her life ebbs, she sees visions of a glorious feast and of her loving grandmother. When the girl dies, she enters the comfort of heaven.

Almost 190 dancers and musicians will perform during the three concerts.

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An interview with Noa Pierson of the New Jersey Ballet.

....Sabovick-Bleich even presented Noa Pierson with flowers on stage, the first time the younger woman danced the Sugar Plum Fairy in 2002.

The only time in the past 11 seasons that Noa Pierson did not dance the role was in 2009, not long after the birth of her son, Zachary Pierson. “It was so hard to sit in the audience,” she says.

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Local artists petition the government after an alleged incident of political censorship involving Hong Kong Ballet.

The campaign was prompted by controversy in October over alleged "political censorship" of a production by the Hong Kong Ballet and Germany's Ballett Dortmund.

A sequence in which dancers in Red Guard uniforms were shown waving copies of Mao Zedong's "little red book" was cut from performances of The Dream of the Red Chamber after the premiere amid claims of political interference. Zhang Xiaoming, head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, reportedly attended the premiere.

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A review of Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker.

I must tell you I was quite transported: I had a fifth row center seat (heaven); the proximity to all that magic, fantasy, music, and superb dancing becomes hypnotic, almost an out-of-body experience. You want to get in touch with your inner child? This is the place. It matters not if you’ve seen it once, 50 times, or never. You think you’re not a dance fan? Go and surprise yourself. This may sound corny, but I’m very grateful to live in a city that offers such glorious entertainment.

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A Q&A with Alison Roper, who is retiring from Oregon Ballet Theatre.

“There are definitely people who do it,” says Roper, of dancing till 40. “Within my sphere of acquaintances in dance work maybe a couple of handfuls. It’s not a lot.

“It’s not unheard of, but not the norm. Here, everybody retired. They’re all younger than me.”

Roper doesn’t plan to leave OBT. Instead, she’ll transition into administration. But, her dancing days are not done, yet.

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LA Dance Project stages a site-specific dance created by Justin Peck for a Van Cleef & Arpels party.

Millepied brought in and advised Peck, who created a new piece for this occasion. Moving the dancers around the newly reconfigured store was a challenge for Peck, who had never worked on such a site-specific, unusual project. “It’s sort of disorienting for me; there’s not really a proscenium front,” he said, referring to the framed stage he's used to at venues like Lincoln Center. “It’s more about presenting to a whole 360 degrees. But the space itself is really cool — it has this beautiful spiral staircase” — a new, sculptural element made of brass and walnut — “and warm lighting, and a wraparound mezzanine, so people could watch from there as well.” He was especially inspired by the new geometric details of the space — a nod, by design firm Jouin Manku Studio, to Art Deco architecture.
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