Review: THE NUTCRACKER at Ballet Hawaii

By: Dec. 18, 2018
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Review: THE NUTCRACKER at Ballet Hawaii

As it's been practically an annual tradition of mine over the last some six years, I always look forward to Ballet Hawaii's presentation of The Nutcracker, for it truly doesn't feel like Christmas without this heartwarming experience. From the familiar, charming score of renowned Tchaikovsky, to the antediluvian, spellbinding costumes, to the prestigious dancing, this particular ballet remains a formula for ultimate holiday and theatre-going success. The story follows as such: a young girl by the name of Clara attends a Christmas party, wherein she meets many denizens of her community and later receives a largesse in the form of a nutcracker. In her sleep that night, she dreams of a battle that ensues between a life-sized nutcracker and the Rat King, in which, after the battle, the prince leads Clara to watch a gamut of ballet dances. Overall, The Nutcracker is a generally enjoyable spectacle.

What is most enjoyable about The Nutcracker is, of course, the superior dancing. In a cast comprised of many professional dancers, whose careers have spanned over decades across the United States, each guest artist, in addition to the many local artists, truly shine in their respective scenes, particularly within Act 2, containing the many segments of cultural ballet dances. As a stage musical dancer myself, I always find myself meticulously observing the various nuances that call for excellent dancing, such as posture, pointed toes, dancing "through the fingers," and even facial expressions, and not a single dancer loses his or her composure or grace in encompassing all of these qualities. Particularly, the paired dance segment of the Hawaiian-themed dancers had the audience in rapturous applause, due to the respect demonstrated toward the aina, in addition to the enthralling performances and choreography. It was even a delight to continue to see local ballerina Raven Matsushita-Garcia---basically a staple within Ballet Hawaii, who has been dancing for over a decade---have her moment in the spotlight with her pair dance. Overall, the performances are stunning.

While I did generally enjoy the ballet, there are a couple of elements that did not suit my personal predilection, such as the general change in the ballet's traditional setting to match the local setting. While it was of course appreciated to see the setting of the show in Hawaii, to me, as an avid fan of the ballet and patron for many years, it did not suit my personal taste, because The Nutcracker itself is such a seminal show in the ballet canon, so to witness a "disturbance" in the usual tradition of the setting became an acquired taste. Furthermore, while not immediately noticeable or thought of, there are a couple of culturally appropriated moments that might become distracting to any viewers that may notice them. Other than that, the show is overall a delight to watch.

The Nutcracker, presented by Ballet Hawaii, is definitely a treat and feast for one's eyes. In addition to the respectable array of guest artists and the superior choreography, the costuming and set are also elements worth appreciating. While the show ran for four performances this past weekend, there are obviously no tickets available, so one will have to wait for next year's rendition. Until then, one can cozily cuddle up next to the Christmas tree and admire the decorative fixtures of ballet shoes and nutcrackers alike.


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