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New York City Ballet's 50th Anniversary of The Nutcracker

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 30, 2004
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
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New York, NY 10023
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New York City Ballet's 50th Anniversary of The Nutcracker

New York City Ballet
George Balanchine's
The Nutcracker
(NYC Ballet Website)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 30, 2004

Special Performance Celebrating The 50th Anniversary of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker.

(See January 3, 2003 Nutcracker Review). (See Joffrey Ballet December 22, 2004 Review).

The Nutcracker: Ballet in two acts, four scenes, and prologue, based on E.T.A. Hoffmans's tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Andrea Quinn, Violin Soloist, Arturo Delmoni, Performed by the Company, Featuring Five Sugarplum Fairies: Yvonne Borree, Darci Kistler, Jenifer Ringer, Miranda Weese, Wendy Whelan, Featuring Seven Cavaliers: Charles Askegard, Joaquin De Luz, Nikolaj Hübbe, Sébastien Marcovici, Nilas Martins, Philip Neal, Jock Soto, and Alexandra Ansanelli and Maria Kowroski as Dewdrop.

James Fayette as Herr Drosselmeier, Isabella DeVivo as Marie, Steven Lobman as Fritz, Amar Ramasar as Mouse King, Ghaleb Kayali as The Nutcracker and The Little Prince, Rachel Rutherford and Arch Higgins Leading Hot Chocolate, Dana Hanson as Coffee, Daniel Ulbricht Leading Tea, Tom Gold Leading Candy Canes, Ashley Bouder Leading Marzipan Shepherdesses, Jonathan Stafford as Mother Ginger, Dena Abergel and Pauline Golbin Leading Flowers, and students of School of American Ballet.

What a brilliant idea! To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Balanchine's The Nutcracker (Premiere: February 2, 1954, City Center of Music and Drama, NY), New York City Ballet invited several Principals Dancers (Yvonne Borree, Darci Kistler, Jenifer Ringer, Miranda Weese, and Wendy Whelan, all of whom, I assume, have been sparkling as Sugarplum Fairies over the recent years, as well as Charles Askegard, Joaquin De Luz, Nikolaj Hübbe, Sebastien Marcovici, Nilas Martins, Philip Neal and Jock Soto (Benjamin Millepied was ill) as Her Cavaliers, and Alexandra Ansanelli and Maria Kowroski as two Dewdrops.

Act I was a scintillating Act, as always, with the majestic "one-ton Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet in less than 40 seconds", an "on-stage snowstorm" with "dozens of bushels of (paper) snow", reused after each blizzard, an assortment of soldiers and mice, a scary clock, and an ever-present Heir Drosselmeier (one of James Fayette's usual starring roles, this time somewhat Dickensian, as he has become a superb theatrical dancer). Isabella DeVivo as Marie and Steven Lobman as Fritz were outstandingly poised, although Mr. Lobman did a bit too much grandstanding for such a young dancer. Ms. DeVivo was all perfection, even using nuanced dramatics, such as shivering in the cold. The students of School of American Ballet, as Children, Mice, and Soldiers, exuded just the right amount of spontaneity and style that was appropriate for the moment.

A high point of Act I was Jenifer Ringer's (Danskin Spokesperson) regal Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, in which she was engaging, endearing, and effervescent in the snow. The Snowflakes were existential, with tiny crowns and swirling effects, amidst the majestic pines, laden with soft, "wet" snow. Another high point was Amar Ramasar's Mouse King, with so many heads and so much giddy pantomime, finally dying, at the hands of the Nutcracker (Ghaleb Kayali, in an adorable role) with feet up then down. Mr. Ramasar, in the Corps, is also fast becoming a Company star and has been often noticed in this magazine.

However, it was Act II that generated audible audience accolades, led by Rachel Rutherford's incredible Hot Chocolate dance in brown ruffles, seducing the audience with her usual elegance and grace, a bit more saucy this time around. Dana Hanson, as Coffee, lifted her arms and legs in sinewy fashion, just as the finger bells sounded, thanks to Andrea Quinn's usual split-timing effects with her Orchestra. Daniel Ulbricht, as the male dancer in Tea, effortlessly executed side leaps and jumping jacks en air that thrilled his ballet fans. On his heels, Tom Gold led Candy Canes, with multiple jumps through his flavor-strewn hoop, in dizzying fashion.

Ashley Bouder (also featured in this magazine) was an enticing leader of Marzipan Shepherdesses, and her spins on one leg were exquisite. Jonathan Stafford (Mother Ginger) in his nine-foot wide costume, that "weighs almost 85 pounds and takes three people to handle" and "is lowered by a pulley over the dancer's head", is another theatrical dancer to watch. The two Dewdrops signaled the start of the Anniversary tribute, as Alexandra Ansanelli spun slowly in place, one leg lifted to the knee, and Maria Kowroski was also powerful in presence and exactness of this soft moment. The Flowers, led by Dena Abergel and Pauline Golbin, were ever so colorful in Karinska's signature costumes (All of Karinska's costumes are worth the visit alone, as are Rouben Ter-Arutunian's elaborate, scenic designs).

Finally, the magical moment arrived, and Jock Soto led Darci Kistler in one of the finest Pas de Deux ever seen, with Ms. Kistler being slowly dragged on one toe, sliding left stage, and with Ms. Kistler leaping more than twice into Mr. Soto's arms. Soon each Sugarplum Fairy, including Ms. Whelan, Ms. Borree, Ms. Ringer, and Ms. Weese, were onstage in various partnerships and various entrances and exits with the multiple Cavaliers, Mr. Soto, Mr. Martins, Mr. Askegard, Mr. De Luz (one of the magnetic and virtuosic presences onstage), Mr. Marcovici, Mr. Hübbe, and Mr. Neal. Mr. Soto and Ms. Whelan performed a powerful Pas de Deux toward the end of the Act, and, at this point, I was hoping for one more hour.

New York City Ballet might consider adding to their Repertoire a new work, The Nutcracker Anniversary Pas de Deux with these multiple Sugarplum Fairies and Cavaliers. Tonight was a magnificent 50th Anniversary tribute to George Balanchine, to New York City Ballet, and to his ballet, The Nutcracker. One final note: Arturo Delmoni, solo violinist and Concertmaster of New York City Ballet, played one of the most soulful and perfected Nutcracker solos I have ever heard, stretching notes to dramatic dimensions. Kudos to all.

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