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Capping a Gutsy Premiere Season, Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker' Soars

by Rita Kohn
December 19, 2018
Old National Centre
502 N New Jersey St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 231-0000
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
It’s not just the marquee at Indianapolis’ Old National Centre that glowed, it’s not just the newly created costumes that sparkled, it’s not just the live Indianapolis Ballet Orchestra that swelled the Murat Theatre with Tchaikovsky’s ethereal music, it’s not just the full-house audience in festive attire that excited, rather it is the totality of Indianapolis Ballet’s immersion into a world that manifests into a dream that thoroughly enchanted.

In its previous ten seasons as an Indianapolis School of Ballet production, "The Nutcracker" never ceased to amaze with its artistry on every level. Yet, here I was experiencing the professional company’s first "Nutcracker" (December 13-16), applauding and cheering the remarkable athleticism along with the expected artistry, with unabated joyfulness fueling the seamless flow. It is so honest as a child’s dream we are caught up in that time, that place where innocence is an okay thing.

Founding artistic director Victoria Lyras completely absorbs the complexity of the ballet, culled from E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 tale, “Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” from which the first ballet grew in 1892. Lyras retains its original pre-World War I setting as timeless. She doesn’t muck with allowing hopefulness to glow into our lives. The dancers pick up on her emotional cue—from the tiniest to the tallest, from the first time on stage student to the professional principal, they transmit their belief in a world better than the reality in which we now live in the year 2018. They show us the benefits of a global view, where it is okay to enjoy foodstuffs from all over the world, to honor diversity of cultures, to welcome everyone into our homes. They show us a family helping their children gain empathy and grow out of bullying behavior. They allow us to feel safe. They share insights for living well. It’s not just pretty dancing. It’s an entry into a setting culled from a real building, the Indiana Historic Landmarks Morris-Butler House, which we can visit and within which we can gain insights about real people who helped build our city 200, 150, 100 years ago.

In a January 20, 2014 post by Jeffrey Tucker, on https://tucker.liberty.me/1078/, he concludes a thoughtfully posited essay with this summation: “The themes of “The Nutcracker” — a culture of free association, gift giving, personal and material growth, dancing and dreaming—can and should be our future. We need not repeat the blunders of the past, the wars and horrors; rather, we can make a new world with a new theme as joyful as the melodies that have enraptured millions in this holiday season. In the last century, the gift of the nutcracker broke. In this century, it is up to us to put that beautiful toy back together again.”

Earlier in this essay, Tucker lists late-19th century authors whose works he had read and from which he gleaned the cultural specialness of that era, and observes that neither they nor Tchaikovsky “could have imagined the horror that was unleashed by World War I.”

In re-reading Tucker’s essay, I am compelled to note that, in 2014- in the era of President Obama’s widening a path toward a culture of thoughtful interaction with each other and the planet upon which we live - Tucker himself could not have imagined the breadth and depth of this new unsettling xenophobic world-view surfacing from the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, his concluding paragraph still has power to spur us toward hopefulness.

The enduring gift of this 2018 premiere Indianapolis Ballet Nutcracker transcends beautiful dancing and superlative production values. The gift is experiencing dancers, representing a culture of globalism literally and artistically, allowing us to enter into a world where we can live in harmony and to imagine its manifestation here and now. At a time when the arts and humanities are beleaguered, when avenues for free trade and respect for diversity are dismantled, when unkindness is normalized, this particular Nutcracker allows us to resuscitate a broken toy—in the figure of Herr Drosselmeyer, as a symbol of mindfully living in harmony. It is a given that unbridled jealousy and spite, unfounded fear and blame, unmonitored postings of falsehoods, manifest into harm-filled leadership.

This layering of understanding made the meticulous dancing all the more uplifting. I applauded along with everyone else twenty-five professional dancers and almost twice as many dancers from the Indianapolis School of Ballet, along with a 42-member professional orchestra under the baton of Vince Lee.

One would have to have attended at least three of the five performances to experience the full spectrum of dancers taking on different roles. This is a strength upon which Indianapolis Ballet can grow. Everyone, not just company principals, gets a chance to shine, to bring a personal quality to the same choreography in a rotation of performances.

With new choreography from what identified the School of Ballet productions for a decade, I witnessed partnering that reflects the ultimate trust this newly formed company has with each other. Some of the leaps and catches were breathtaking, but so was the corps dancing and the specialty segments.

In Act I, alternately, Yoshiko Kamikusa, as Snow Queen, partnered with Christopher Lingner as Snow King; Kristin Toner as Snow Queen partnered with Khris Santos as Snow King.

Buse Babadag shared Columbine with Abigail-Rose Crowell.

Leonard Perez shared Soldier Doll with Riley Horton.

At all five performances Greg Goessner was Mouse King, and Leonard Perez was Nutcracker, as were Josephine Kirk as Clara, Lucas Reiberg as Fritz, and Paul Vitali as Herr Drosselmeyer.

In Act II Kristin Toner partnered with Riley Horton as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier; in rotation with Kamikusa and Lingner partnering.

Camila Ferrera and Jessica Miller shared Dew Drop Fairy.

David Vass embodied Mother Ginger throughout.

Up next:

Feb. 15-17: Love is in the Air: featuring "Paquita" & "Carmen" in Residency at The Toby Theatre at Newfields, Indianapolis

April 18-20:"Swan Lake" in Residency at The Toby Theatre at Newfields, Indianapolis

Tickets at: indyballet.org and 317-955-7525
Soldiers & mice prepare for battle during Act 1 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker,' presented by Methodist Sports Medicine.

Soldiers & mice prepare for battle during Act 1 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker," presented by Methodist Sports Medicine.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Lingner as the Snow Queen and Snow King in Act 1 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Lingner as the Snow Queen and Snow King in Act 1 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Mary Ann Schaefer and Glenn Kelich perform Arabian Coffee as Clara (Josephine Kirk) looks on during Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

Mary Ann Schaefer and Glenn Kelich perform Arabian Coffee as Clara (Josephine Kirk) looks on during Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


(L to R) Abigail Bixler, Rowan Allegra and Caroline Rettig perform German Marzipan during Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

(L to R) Abigail Bixler, Rowan Allegra and Caroline Rettig perform German Marzipan during Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Kristin Toner and Riley Horton as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier during the Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

Kristin Toner and Riley Horton as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier during the Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


The Waltz of the Flowers, featuring Camila Ferrera as Dew Drop, during Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

The Waltz of the Flowers, featuring Camila Ferrera as Dew Drop, during Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Kristin Toner and Riley Horton as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier during the Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

Kristin Toner and Riley Horton as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier during the Act 2 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Lingner as the Snow Queen and Snow King in Act 1 of Indianapolis Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker.'

Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Lingner as the Snow Queen and Snow King in Act 1 of Indianapolis Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography

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