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Indiana University Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker Enchanting

by Rita Kohn
November 30, 2012
Musical Arts Center - Indiana University
101 North Jordan Ave
Bloomington, IN 47406
(812) 855-7433
This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Enchanting through subtlety, IU Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker is in a class of its own. The scenario by Michael Vernon is after Marius Petipa's adaptation of the E.T.A. Hoffmann story, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." Hoffmann's is a dark story.

Petipa and Vernon thrust the story through sequences of shades into brightness. Vernon's foreshadowing during the realistic party scene brings us securely into the particulars of Clara's fantasy dream. I found myself noticing something different about a young Drosselmeyer interfacing his magic with the children, particularly Clara; and yes, there's something about Clara that sets her apart as a highly imaginative, sensitive child.

The ballet starts with a muted, introspective overture. We sit and listen to the layerings of Tchaikovsky's music, stripping away our rushing to get to the theatre and into the chatter and hubbub in the lobby. Andrea Quinn's introspective conducting melds with Vernon's story set in 19th century Vienna. There is a stark difference between the cold outside and cozy inside with its time-stop vignettes of preparation to greet guests followed by a whirl of activity culminating in the time-to-go-home dance. Clara's retrieval of her nutracker and the appearance of mice bring us into Clara's dream. After the small wooden nutcracker morphs into a larger mobile nutcracker that is saved by Clara distracting the Mouse King, there is no humanized Prince Nutcracker. It is Herr Drosselmeyer who escorts Clara from the dream scene into the snow scene and ultimately into the land of sweets.

Vernon's choreography spins into each succeeding scene as a tumbleweed moves from its start to the stopping point. It may pick up stuff and speed, but it's essentially true to itself. By staying true to 19th century Vienna, Vernon's emphasis is on a streamlined Nutcracker with fine acting, dancing, live orchestra, and production values, where nuances and small details command attention.

Of particular interest for us in Indianapolis at Friday's opening was Christopher Lingner as a flirty Harlequin Doll and then in the high jumping Trepak as well as Michelle Meltzer as a sensuous, sultry Arabian. Each Indianapolis-native danced other roles at succeeding performances.
Christopher Lingner in the 'Trepak' in IU Ballet Theater's 'The Nutcracker'. Photo courtesy of IU Ballet Theater.

Christopher Lingner in the "Trepak" in IU Ballet Theater's "The Nutcracker". Photo courtesy of IU Ballet Theater.


Justin Barbour as the Mouse King and Austin Dowdy as the Nutcracker Doll in IU Ballet Theater's 'The Nutcracker'. Photo courtesy of IU Ballet Theater.

Justin Barbour as the Mouse King
and Austin Dowdy as the Nutcracker Doll in IU Ballet Theater's "The Nutcracker". Photo courtesy of IU Ballet Theater.

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