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BWW Reviews: Gelsey Kirkland Presents THE NUTCRACKER

'Tis the season. On December 11, 2014 my first viewing of The Nutcracker this season was the opening night of Gelsey Kirkland Ballet's delightful version, choreographed and directed by Michael Chernov, co-artistic director, after Vasili Vainonen, assisted by Gelsey Kirkland and Alexandra Lawler. What a pleasure! The décor and the costume design, adapted by Chernov, are beautiful, even a growing Christmas tree. Especially impressive are the doll cabinets: the large mechanical clock, which housed the three mechanical dolls in the party scene, and the huge toy cabinet, out of which emerged dolls, representing the dances to come in the second act and toy soldiers, standing on the top shelf, in the Midnight Battle. Costumes were by Jennifer Wood-Bonnell, Lynda Mead, Susan Sandford, Jetty Maika, and Naomi Morin, and carpentry by Technical Director, Brandon Walker.

The Nutcracker, composed by Peter Illyich Tchaikowsky, is the richly symbolic story about a young girl's journey through fear and darkness to the light of love. In this version, Marie (sometimes called Clara in other versions) is an active participant in the dream, also dancing the Grand Pas de Deux with her Nutcracker Prince (often danced by the Sugar Plum Fairy.) There were 70 dancers in this ensemble, comprised of graduates and trainees of the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet. Particularly remarkable was the success of dramatic storytelling through ballet. These young dancers were committed to their roles and seemed to be having a wonderful time, which is a good measure of real dancing.

At this performance, Marie was beautifully danced by Michelle Katcher and partnered by Johnny Almeida, her fine Nutcracker Prince. Satoki Habuchi, dancing Marie's younger brother, Fritz, demonstrated a marvelous balon (high jumps which floated in the air). Another good jumper was Kaito Yamamoto, as the Mortal Time doll (party scene) and Chinese (Act Two.) The falling snow, closing Act One, was simply mesmerizing. The second act offered opportunities to many young dancers to shine in Angels, Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian, Flutes (sometimes called Marzipan), and Flowers and their Cavaliers.

This is a lovely Nutcracker, which can be seen at the Schimmel Center at Pace University, December 18, 19, 20, 21.

Photograph: EDUARDO PATINO


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