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Joffrey
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The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
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The Joffrey Ballet - The Nutcracker

by Susan Weinrebe
December 21, 2006
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-2110
A Robert Joffrey Production
(www.joffrey.com)

Founders, Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino
Artistic Director, Gerald Arpino
Ballet Masters, Charthel Arthur, Mark Goldweber
Children's Ballet Master, Carla Graham-White
Music Director, Principal Conductor, Leslie B. Dunner
Public Relations Services, The Silverman Group
Marketing and PR Manager, Pat Washington
The Nutcracker: A ballet in two acts based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, conceived and directed by Robert Joffrey, choreography for "Waltz of the Snowflakes" & "Waltz of the Flowers" by Gerald Arpino, Originally Staged by George Verdak and Scott Barnard after the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo 1940 production revived by Alexandra Fedorova from the Petipa/Ivanov production for the Maryinsky Ballet, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes (including Mother Ginger) by David Ridge, Creative Design for The Mice, Mother Ginger and Clara's Horse by Kermit Love, Lighting by Scott Kepley after original designs by Thomas Skelton, Conductor, Dr. Leslie B. Dunner,

Performed by Artists of the Company: Heather Aagard, Matthew Adamczyk, Derrick Agnoletti, Fabrice Calmels, April Daly, Jonathan Dummar, Erica Lynette Edwards, John Gluckman, David Gombert, Jennifer Goodman, Elizabeth Hansen, William Hillard, Anastacia Holden, Victoria Jaiani, Stacy Joy Keller, Julianne Kepley, Calvin Kitten, Britta Lazenga, Michael Levine, Suzanne Lopez, Brian McSween, Thomas Nicholas, Emily Patterson, Eduardo Permuy, Alexis Polito, Megan Quiroz, Valerie Robin, Christine Rocas, Aaron Rogers, Willy Shives, Tian Shuai, Abigail Simon, Patrick Simoniello, Michael Smith, Lauren Stewart, Temur Suluashvili, Kathleen Thielhelm, Mauro Villanueva, Allison Walsh, Maia Wilkins, Joanna Wozniak

Some things naturally go together: champagne and caviar, cashmere and pearls, the Joffrey Ballet and The Nutcracker. Once again, the ever-sparkling Joffrey dancers bring their holiday audience along on a Christmas fantasy to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.

Truly, the night was for and about children in this added- by-popular demand extra performance. Always, there are children in the audience, being nurtured in their appreciation of ballet by doting family members. On this night, however, it seemed that there were more children and younger than in past years. They were well dressed and well behaved and attentive throughout.

Young dancers on stage, talented and enthusiastic as usual, were particularly loose and relaxed in their roles. From the guests at the party, including a child in a wheelchair, to the fighting mice and miniature candy versions of grown-up counterparts as sweets, these children possessed real stage presence. The Gingerbread Boy practically stole the scene with his hilarious non-stop antics. He had the people behind me (who said they weren't related when I asked), howling with laughter.

But of course, it is the Joffrey performers who create the magic in The Nutcracker, a company bread-and-butter piece. Just as we remember, family and friends gather to celebrate the holiday and the magical Dr. Drosselmeyer produces dolls that come to life to the delight of the guests. The imaginative wish of a little girl, that her doll would become real, happens as Clara is transported from her parlor to the Land of Snow and the delights of dancing snowflakes, candies, and beverages, with her darling Nutcracker Prince and his Sugar Plum Fairy.

Among the male dancers, Willy Shives, dancing the Nutcracker Prince, and Michael Levine, as Snow King, partner their ballerinas with such gallant effect, that we are not mindful of their power as dancers, until their solos or until they rescue a fish dive with grace and timing to prevent a disaster. Generous dancers, they make any pas de deux appear effortless.

This was especially true as Victoria Jaiani and Michael Levine twined around each other for the sinuously acrobatic interlude, "Coffee from Arabia." Each ballerina brings her own physicality to this part, whether it is hyper leg extensions held to the maximum beat or, as was the case with Ms. Jaiani, elastic backbends which took the spotlight, as Mr. Levine echoed movements more like licorice whips than caffeine.

Snapping her fan as "Chocolate from Spain," Julianne Kepley added the klieg light of her smile to the athletic prowess of her solo. I remembered the electric zing Maia Wilkins generated in the part two years earlier and again realized what a brilliant ensemble group the Joffrey is.

But the real sizzle of the night went to Derrick Agnoletti. An Eveready battery of a dancer, he played Fritz, the Snow Prince, and the male partner in "Tea from China." In character as a little boy, he created genuine sense of sibling relationship with Clara, at the same time proving to be an uber handful to contain. His energy chewed up the stage in his next two parts with thrilling suspended leaps, mid-air splits, and pas des chats that captured attention for their exuberance and height. He brought the zest of youthful abandon to each of these parts, appropriate in a ballet that is really all about childhood.

By the time the mice had warred, the candy had danced, the snowflakes had fallen, and all magic had been dispensed, The Joffrey Ballet had given the audience a gift of their own, their annual holiday present to Chicago, The Nutcracker.
Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker

Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker

Photo © & courtesy of Herbert Migdoll


Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker

Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker

Photo © & courtesy of Herbert Migdoll


Betsye and Pat Welcome Joffrey Patrons

Betsye and Pat Welcome Joffrey Patrons

Photo © & courtesy of Susan Weinrebe


Holiday Cheer for Intermission

Holiday Cheer for Intermission

Photo © & courtesy of Susan Weinrebe


Souvenirs From The Nutcracker

Souvenirs From The Nutcracker

Photo © & courtesy of Susan Weinrebe


Susan and Mary

Susan and Mary

Photo © & courtesy of Susan Weinrebe

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