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Indianapolis School of Ballet - Tchaikofsky's The Nutcracker featuring the Morris-Butler House Façade and Parlor

by Rita Kohn
December 19, 2010
Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral
650 N. Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317-262-3100
4 stars
Dec. 17-19, 2010

This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Indianapolis School of Ballet dancers always deliver more than expected for their age, as again witnessed at their 2010 Nutcracker with sequences that delighted us with sterling storytelling from guests moving toward a [backdrop] house we might recently have visited, to Clara drifting back from her colorful dream world. We're enthralled in the moment of reality while subliminally knowing it is make believe. Ordinarily we're not traversing snowy pathways en pointe or being visited by a mysteriously magical godfather bringing mechanical toys and taking us into other worlds. Three layers are at work, emanating from George Balanchine's influence of spinning a balletic story from what we observe, building choreography as a balance between acquired technique while challenging to reach beyond, and delivering dimensional, nuanced characters. In embracing Balanchine artistic director Victoria Lyras invites her dancers to understand the heart of the story as well as the mind of the character. Technique, moving at one with the music and knowing what you want, hence where you're going, round out each scene. ISB's dancers fill the Christmas party with ebullience of truthful portrayal. They are having fun, spats and not wanting to leave. Transformation into dreaming is honest because we tend to work out conflicts in our sleep. Mice loom large, toy soldiers march out of their box and a canon shoots cheese to distract mice from attacking. What a lovely concept for real world events, adding a bit of whimsical heft to the Nutcracker's recognizably thin plot. Lyras and Fiona Fuerstner give their dancers rich ideas to work with. After the noisy battle and Clara liberating The Prince, we gain respite with buoyant snowflakes, Snow Queen and Snow King in a moon lit pine forest. ISB's angels don't need dry ice to emulate floating into the Kingdom of Sweets, ruled over by the Sugar Plum Fairy while the Prince was under a spell as the Nutcracker. A celebration of sweets from around the world honors Clara's bravery. It's their cultural virtuosity along with the waltzing flowers and Sugar Plum and Cavalier's breathtaking Pas de Deux that we await and applaud. Here are young dancers deliciously nailing Tchaikovsky and Petipa via Balanchine's concepts and example.
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