BWW Review: Dances Patrelle Presents The Yorkville Nutcracker
Francis Patrelle (Artistic Director/Resident Choreographer) founded Dances Patrelle in 1988 as an outlet for his choreography. Patrelle engages professional dancers and, for The Yorkville Nutcracker, he invites students of Ballet Academy East to dance many of the roles, as Nutcracker productions traditionally use children and young dancers for a large number of roles. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of Dances Patrelle's The Yorkville Nutcracker, which I saw on December 8, 2017.
The young dancers' energy and exuberance made the production delightful. On the evening I was in attendance, the part listed as Their Daughter (in other productions she is called Clara, or Marie, or Masha) was performed by Rachel Chin and Their Son (Fritz) by Oscar Estep. They participated in the production from beginning to end, sometimes entering the dances in the second act, not simply sitting quietly watching. As brother and sister, we saw them bicker, compete, and sometimes cooperate with each other.
The scrim and the backdrops are beautiful, by Resident set designer, Gillian Bradshaw-Smith. The costumes, by Resident costume designer, David Grill, are colorful and lovely to see.
The first act is a Christmas party. Unusual to this production was the foreshadowing of the characters who appear in the second act, worn by children and adults representing different countries (ex. Chinese and Arab, etc.). The party is an opportunity for young children to perform. Simplicity in choreography and musicality was good to help the children stay together. I found the long, wooden rifle carried by the Son and the pretend rifles carried by the other boys to be more violent than I like to see in this ballet. The rifle foreshadowed the rifles carried by him and the soldiers during the battle with the mice, following the party when the Daughter falls asleep.
The Snow King, Maximillian Band, and the Snow Queen, Therese Wendler were joined by the Snow Prince, Finneas Duggin (on this night), a character I have never seen presented in other Nutcrackers. Instead of Snowflakes, there were Skaters, dressed in purple with both hands buried in muffs, throughout the performance. This was charming and danced well by the young dancers.
The Spanish dance was well danced by young couples. One of the girls, who also danced as a skater and, later, as a flower, had beautiful arms, hands, and epaulement, setting her apart from the others. The Chinese dance was performed by one boy and two girls. One of the girls, Sophie Kim, showed particular talent.
The Sugar Plum Fairy was danced by New York City Ballet principal dancer Abi Stafford. Her strong and attentive partner was former NYCB principal dancer, Stephen Hanna. The Sugar Plum Fairy is usually the magical connection, bringing the children through what is often referred to as the Land of the Sweets. I did not feel the magic, but this ballet is magic in itself, so I'm sure the children loved seeing it and performing in it. 'Tis the season!
Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor