BWW Reviews: Ballet West Delivers a Sparkling NUTCRACKER
I recently had the honor and privilege of taking my six-year-old niece to her first ballet. It was Ballet West's The Nutcracker, a perfect choice for any child excited about the holiday season, ballet, and performing. The story of The Nutcracker dates back to 1816 and was written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Tchaikovsky wrote the score and The Nutcracker first premiered on Sunday, December 18, 1892. Since then, it has grown wildly in popularity and is considered a holiday tradition for many people.
The story of The Nutcracker opens on Christmas eve, where Drosselmeyer and his nephew are on their way to the Stahlbaums Christmas party. There, he gives Clara, the Stahlbaums daughter, a nutcracker as a present. Fritz, jealous of the present, grabs the nutcracker and, in the ensuing scuffle, the toy is broken. Clara cries, but Drosselmeyer comes to her rescue and fixes the nutcracker for her. Later that night, Clara steals out of bed to take one last look at her beloved nutcracker and falls asleep by the tree. Drosselmeyer appears when the clock strikes midnight and suddenly mice are dancing all around the room and the Christmas tree grows to a magnificent height. Clara's nutcracker too has grown and is now life-sized, and a battle between the nutcracker and the mouse king commences. After a fantastic battle (which included one very LOUD cannon), the nutcracker, assisted by an army of toy soldiers, slays the mouse king. The nutcracker reappears, transformed into a handsome prince and takes Clara away to the Pine Forest, where they watch the snowflakes dance.
Act Two begins in The Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier greet Clara and her prince. The couple is treated to delights from around the world, including Arabia, Spain, China, and Russia, as well as Mother Buffoon and her children, whom she keeps hidden under her enormous skirt. After the entertainment, Clara and her prince fly away on a magical sled, while waving goodbye to the Sugar Plum Fairy and all their new friends.
Having seen The Nutcracker several times, this year the emphasis seemed to be on Act Two and the dancers in The Land of Sweets. Each artist was so precise and meticulous, but yet brought his own character and enthusiasm to their role. Arolyn Williams and her Miriltons were dynamic and so much fun to watch, Allison DeBona, as the Arabian Dancer, was sensual and mysterious, Beckanne Sisk and Christopher Ruud made difficult steps look easy in the pas de deux of the Waltz of the Flowers, and the audience was absolutely delighted with the Russian dancers.
My niece, Kay, enjoyed the ballet so much that it reaffirmed her love of dance. She sat captivated the entire time, and during intermission she looked at me and said sadly, "Is that the end?" When I told her there was more, she clapped her hands for joy. The Nutcracker, albeit a very cheesy story, is one that children relate to and love. Ballet West's The Nutcracker offers beautiful sets, costumes, and above all, extremely talented dancing. Seeing it through Kay's eyes made me remember why Christmas time is so special, especially for children. Although, the show itself did have a few errors (one snowflake was noticeably late and behind the other snowflakes), the show as a whole is a fun and magic-filled experience that every child should encounter.
Ballet West's The Nutcracker runs from now until December 29th at the Capitol Theater.
Photo by Michael Brandy.