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Kozlova’s “Nutcracker Winter Suite” a Dance Delight

by Bonnie Rosenstock
December 12, 2015
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
(212) 864-1414
Valentina Kozlova, artistic director of the Dance Conservatory of New York, welcomed the audience to her all-new version of “Nutcracker Winter Suite,” Saturday, December 5, by saying “they dance a lot.” And dance they did. From start to finish there was not a pause for breath in the charming 60-minute-plus program.

The production got right down to business with the Land of the Snow and then leaped into the Act II Land of Sweets divertissements, which included the Waltz of the Flowers, the Christmas Star, the Doll, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier and the Russian, Arabian, Marzipan and Spanish numbers. The dances were choreographed and staged by Margo Sappington, Kozlova and Vitaly Verterich after the original, created by Marius Petipa for the Moscow Ballet in 1892, and Vasily Vainonen’s version, choreographed in 1934 for the Kirov (now the Mariinsky Ballet), which is one of the oldest still performed today. Petipa adapted Alexander Dumas’ revision of E.T.A. Hoffman’s story, “The Nutcracker and the King of the Mice,” into a two-act ballet, with which audiences are most familiar. Kozlova’s abridged version removes the plot and principal characters—no Clara, Nutcracker Prince or Mouse King—but retains the exuberance, wonder, and of course, Tchaikovsky’s magical score. The production was nicely topped off by a pastel pink backdrop which resembled an old-world bakery, filled with yummy cakes on cake stands.

There were only two performances with two different casts. At the 3 p.m. performance that I attended the Snow King and Queen were Revital Naroditski and Justin Valentine, who were wonderfully matched. Naroditski showed her versatility in a more playful role as the Doll. Valentine, dressed in all white, did double duty as the Cavalier, paired with the gifted Nikita Boris as the Sugar Plum Fairy in pink. Valentine was most impressive in his graceful airborne solo leaps and quiet landings and skill and strength in his sustained breathtaking partnering lifts. Boris performed a dizzying number of turns en pointe and was lovely as the liftee.

As the Spanish dancers, Isabel Breier and especially Anna Guerrero, who spun like a whirlwind, were charming and handled their fans like pros. Mari Bell and Jack Furlong were terrific as the Russian duet. But the most outstanding and distinctive was the tall, stately and mesmerizing Brecke Swan as the Arabian dancer. Her body slinked like a snake, and her arms and hands created the most fascinating shapes. The ensemble for the Snowflakes and Waltz danced well enough but needed more oomph. The youngest of the children were adorable and for the most part, disciplined and well behaved. Overall, the production was a crowd-pleaser.

It’s obvious that these young talented dancers, drawn from Kozlova’s Dance Conservatory School, have had excellent training. Kozlova, a former Principal Dancer with both the Bolshoi Ballet and later the New York City Ballet, combines the teachings and methods of both highly regarded institutions.

The Symphony Space audience, a wide mix of New York in age, race and gender, clearly enjoyed the production. The kid-friendly theater supplied blue plastic benches to place on top of the grown-up seats so that young children could have an unobstructed view and be enchanted. A great way to build the next generation of balletomanes and performers.

Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory of New York, 250 West 54th Street, Suite 503, New York, NY 10019. (212) 245-0050. Kozlova also directs the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition. The sixth VKIBC is scheduled for April at Symphony Space. For more information, go to www.vkibc.org .
Nikita Boris as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Justin Valentine as her Cavalier.

Nikita Boris as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Justin Valentine as her Cavalier.

Photo © & courtesy of Yelena Yeva


Nikita Boris as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Justin Valentine as her Cavalier.

Nikita Boris as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Justin Valentine as her Cavalier.

Photo © & courtesy of Yelena Yeva


Brecke Swan in the Arabian Dance.

Brecke Swan in the Arabian Dance.

Photo © & courtesy of Yelena Yeva


Jack Furlong and Mari Bell in the Russian Dance.

Jack Furlong and Mari Bell in the Russian Dance.

Photo © & courtesy of Yelena Yeva


Jack Furlong and Mari Bell in the Russian Dance.

Jack Furlong and Mari Bell in the Russian Dance.

Photo © & courtesy of Yelena Yeva


Caroline Grossman as the Christmas Star.

Caroline Grossman as the Christmas Star.

Photo © & courtesy of Yelena Yeva

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