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BWW Reviews: American Ballet Theatre's THE NUTCRACKER


The sights and sounds of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker are a staple to Christmastime in New York City. The American Ballet Theatre has brought this timeless tradition to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the past five years. The Company began its final run of Artist in Resident Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker last weekend, delighting audiences at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and leaving a legacy of joy and wonder.

The Nutcracker tells the familiar story of a young girl and her nutcracker doll, a battle with mice, and a visit to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Mixed with exquisite dancing, engagingly colorful sets and costumes, and lots of humor, this production captured the audience's attention from the start.

But what made this production a standout from most Nutcrackers was its clear focus on tending to the most important audience members of the entire season - the children. The little children, who pressed their faces against the glass case in the lobby that displayed the pointe shoes of the dancers. The little children, who had gotten all dressed up to watch what may have been their first ballet (and what one hopes may not be their last). The little children, whose voices commentating on the scenes unfolding before their eyes were very much a part of the score as Tchaikovsky's beloved composition. The little children, who had the opportunity to see young ones, like themselves, engage in a most beautiful art form. This production of The Nutcracker was most definitely for the children. But that is not to say that parents and ballet enthusiasts did not enjoy the evening just as much.

Ratmansky employed a grandiose sense of storytelling infused with humor. The production was more about comedy and theatricality rather than physicality and athletic feats. It was about characters, such as the indomitable little mouse played by ballet student Justin Souriau-Levine, and unpredictability, such as when the Snowflakes danced more like a blizzard than a peaceful snowfall (probably a more accurate portrayal of snow for New Yorkers).

But when it came to the dancing, Ratmansky introduced the art form at such key points. The first show of impressive choreography was on the ballet students, which was much more challenging than your average Ballet I class. With eye-catching formations and incredible flow, the young ballet students navigated the stage at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House with such precision and professionalism.

The second instance was the pas de deux by Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside. It was absolutely stunning. It was so great to see that amidst the fun and laughter of this production, there was also exceptional dancing. Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside's roles as the adult versions of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, also added a genuine touch to the famed pas de deux. For it was not a far-removed princess dancing on the stage, but rather it was a young girl envisioning herself all grown up and dancing with her dream prince. At key points, Clara (Emilie Trauchessec) and the Nutcracker Boy (Kent Andrews) would dance alongside Ms. Murphy and Mr. Whiteside. The mirroring of the two couples was so poignant, giving the principals such warmth as they danced onstage. They struck the audience with such awe that the silence came over everyone. All eyes were on the two, who were no longer famed dancers set apart from the audience but were the very symbol of their hearts' desire.

Yes, this production of The Nutcracker was for the little children. For those little ones seeing their first ballet. For those little girls who dream of becoming ballerinas. For those little boys who realize this is for them too. And for those little children, deep within the hearts of every member of the audience, who are awakened every Christmas season.

Photo Credit: Rosalie O' Connor

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From This Author Jessica Abejar

Jessica Abejar is an artist with a love of storytelling. As a dancer/choreographer, she most recently performed at World Youth Day in Brazil, where she (read more...)