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Peridance 'Nutcracker' a Hard Nut to Crack

by Bonnie Rosenstock
December 11, 2015
Peridance Capezio Center
126 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10003
212-505-0886
Blonde, curly-haired Clara is sitting in the back of a white limo as it speeds through New York City streets via projections and passes familiar iconic sites on her way to 126 East 13th Street and the Peridance Capezio Center. In close-up, Clara, played by Simone Smith in her second year in the role, cocks her head upward in supposed wonder. I also had expectations of wonder, as I am usually bedazzled by Peridance Contemporary Dance Company productions, but its ambitious The Nutcracker: A Contemporary Look was befuddling and full of odd choices.

The production, conceived and choreographed by founder and artistic director Igal Perry, featured effective multimedia projections for the various dance sections, impressive, inventive moveable scenery and a cast of a hundred drawn from the deep well of Peridance’s myriad training programs for children of all ages and stages of development, as well as the first-rate Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and its skilled apprentices. Perhaps to appeal to a wider audience, the decision was made to create several sequences of lovely lyrical numbers, a Perry signature, to the music of Johan Strauss II. While the Company members proved their mettle, stamina and talent, it was like watching all-too-long adult apples ballet inserted into the age-old oranges children’s tale.

Our guide for the 75-minute adventure was the charismatic Erik Zarcone in glittery black topcoat and cape as the mysterious Drosselmeyer, who is traditionally Clara’s godfather. He pulled out all magician stops as flowers, streamers and colorful scarves materialized from inside his clothes. However, I wasn’t sure if he was benevolent or malevolent because he could look really scary with his wild shock of black hair and eye makeup. His dancing was wonderfully extravagant, as he swooped over the proceedings like an eagle.

The traditional divertissements to traditional Tchaikovsky were uneven, also with some curious choices. The Tap Dolls featured the adept tap dancer Caleb Teicher, who did some nice accents and turns, and the lovely ballet dancer Midori Nonaka. However, the two had no chemistry and seemed to be doing two different dances. There was also a heavy-footed effort by two young people, who are years away from actual performing chops. Then there were the silly mustaches on the two female dancers in the Dance in the Red Square, which served no purpose as they frolicked with the two men. The dancing itself was fast-paced fun done with masterful agility and acrobatics.

When The Peridance Youth Ensemble came onto the stage to the strains of Les Tambours du Bronx in Mother Ginger, I expected their trademark high-energy dance feats of fabulous. But the choreography and their vitality fell flat. The one impressive concept was when the colorful strips of Giorgia Vitali’s skirt transformed into a dazzling maypole of sorts. Summer in the Desert, the Arabian dance, one of Tchaikovsky’s glorious, sensual musical sections, felt cold and dispassionate as performed by Magdalena Horowitz and Samuel Asher Kunzman. The Spring Flowers section was nicely executed, but the large painted cardboard petals and even larger flower that the dancers carried were oddly unattractive.

The Skaters number was smooth, as the dancers mimicked skating on “ice” via visuals of a silvery skating rink on the floor, complemented by a projection of the iconic Rockefeller Center bronze gilded statue of Prometheus on the wall. And despite a stumble and almost fall by one of the two male Korean dancers, they delivered a deft performance in the Asian number.

The little kids, were of course, adorable and moved to their age ability. In the opening section at Clara’s house, there were seemingly empty chairs facing the set. All of a sudden, little swaying arms appeared poking out of either side of the chairs. Then their bodies. It was a charming sequence. This production needed more of that charm and wonder.
Katie Currier and Zachary Kukla of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company.

Katie Currier and Zachary Kukla of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company.

Photo © & courtesy of Alban Rombaux


Simone Smith with Core 3 of the Peridance Pre-Professional Training Program.

Simone Smith with Core 3 of the Peridance Pre-Professional Training Program.

Photo © & courtesy of Alban Rombaux


Students of the Peridance Certificate Program.

Students of the Peridance Certificate Program.

Photo © & courtesy of Alban Rombaux


Leigh Lijoi and Craig Dionne of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company.

Leigh Lijoi and Craig Dionne of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company.

Photo © & courtesy of Alban Rombaux


Erik Zarcone and Simone Smith with Core 1 & 2 of the Peridance Pre-Professional Training Program.

Erik Zarcone and Simone Smith with Core 1 & 2 of the Peridance Pre-Professional Training Program.

Photo © & courtesy of Bradley Coleman


Students of the Peridance Certificate Program.

Students of the Peridance Certificate Program.

Photo © & courtesy of Bradley Coleman


Erik Zarcone and Simone Smith.

Erik Zarcone and Simone Smith.

Photo © & courtesy of Emily Lembo


Greta Zuccarello and Jerard Palazo of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company.

Greta Zuccarello and Jerard Palazo of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company.

Photo © & courtesy of Emily Lembo

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