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2016 Nutcracker 16-18 December (also 9-11)

Jack Reed

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Friday evening 16 December 2016


I’ve been enjoying this production for many years, often seeing some familiar names in the program from a few years back, but this year there were a host of new ones.  


Different more-or-less traditional versions of The Nutcracker differ according to which ballerina role is supreme, Sugar Plum or Dewdrop (the leader of the Waltz of the Flowers); this one has three major roles:  In the order we see them here, in the Snow Pas de Deux to the great, adagio Pine Forest music beginning the Snow scene; Dewdrop, and Sugar Plum.  Here the Sugar Plum pas de deux is a traditional four-part classical pas deux, the Balanchine choreography for the adagio, female variation (to the lovely celeste music), and coda, and a male variation made by Daniel Duell to replace the lost Balanchine one.


My friend and I agreed that Elizabeth Chlanda (one of the few names I recognized) showed us her dancing with beautiful mastery, partnered by Brenton Taft, who only rarely evinced the difficulty that underlies dancing like this; we enjoyed Emily Fugett’s Dewdrop, another dancer who has been on view before, but felt this flower was maybe just beginning to wilt slightly by comparison with the crisp, clean line of most of the dancing on view; but, ahem, fifteen-year-old Nina Montalbano (one of the names new to me this year) so realized Sugar Plum and made visible her fairy presence here in the fantasy land of The Land of Sweets, she made it natural and right and inevitable that this magical land was hers.  Her cavalier, Lee Borowski, seemed to provide everything Montalbano needed.


There were other highlights, more than I’m up to naming, but David Riley was the crisp, effective Soldier Doll in the “Prologue” or party scene entertainment, and the role of Nutcracker, marshaling his toy-soldier troops and finally doing-in the Mouse King in the Battle was an expansion in keeping with this, but this was only a harbinger of his quick, sharp, high leaps in the Russian dance, with four boys.  Not least, Riley is a little guy, but oh, my, big effect.


I might mention here that this Battle is more a danced contest of clashing ranks and less rough-and-tumble in its effect than some versions - like the famous one choreographed for the 1954 NYCB Nutcracker by Jerome Robbins.


And Ruby Sindelar, Marie, is much littler than Riley, but well up to her role, including some new action as the orchestra starts the introduction to the Waltz of the Flowers:  Marie hears Tchaikovsky telling us “something is coming”and moves from corner to corner, expressing anticipation.  (The Waltz underway, Marie mostly watches, seated downstage our right; the Act II divertissements here are presented partly as entertainment for the Sugar Plum’s little visitors, as for us.)


Overall, the striking thing this year was the continuity of impetus of this production; this was good in previous years, but when the 45-minute Act I was wrapped up, my companion, who hasn’t seen this for a few years, exclaimed that it couldn’t be intermission yet.  “That just flew by!”  Considering the variety of actions in Act I, that’s something; and considering the criticism of the new Joffrey production for its bumpy transitions (among other criticisms - this is not necessarily the thread for those) that’s a lot.


You can get a glimpse of this by perusing the BC Nutcracker image gallery.

Edited by Jack Reed
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