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New York City Ballet - George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
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
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 3, 2003
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, Jean Ingraham, Performed by the Company, featuring Sofiane Sylve (Guest Artist from the Dutch National Ballet) as the Sugarplum Fairy, Charles Askegard as her Cavalier, Alexandra Ansanelli as the Dewdrop, James Fayette as Herr Drosselmeier, Meiying Thai as Marie, and Amon Ito as Fritz.
Clearly, this production of The Nutcracker, a ballet that I have tremendously enjoyed over the years, was certainly one of the best. The soloists were superb, especially the children, two of which were Meiying Thai and Amon Ito, who danced the roles of Marie and Fritz. These two featured dancers were poised, elegant, and well aware of their stage presence. Throughout the ballet, while attending a festive Holiday gathering, watching the Christmas tree grow, fighting off the Mouse King (Seth Orza), walking through the snowflakes, or observing the international dance performances in The Land of the Sweets, they engaged the audience in rapture and amazement at their technical and presentational skills. Another bravura performance by the children was in the dance of the Angels, in which little feet propelled the floor length costumes, and they carefully wound their way between and through the rows of seemingly motorized dancers. There were children rocking dolls and riding hobbyhorses, scampering and galloping across the stage in formal Holiday costumes that blended and contrasted with the fine scenery and set designs that helped to create a smorgasbord of visual treats. The Polichinelles that emerged from beneath the enormous skirt of Mother Ginger (Jonathan Stafford) danced in perfectly choreographed arrangements, while Mr. Stafford provided a campy performance in drag.
George Balanchine's original choreography for The Nutcracker creates an exquisite dreamlike quality, especially in The Land of the Sweets, and most particularly the sensual Coffee Dance, performed flirtatiously this night by Rebecca Krohn. Ms. Krohn, in aggressive makeup, was a startling seductress, as she contrasted so strikingly against the dancers of marzipan, hot chocolate, and candy canes. The lead Candy Cane, Tom Gold, flipped his hoop around his entire body with speed and dexterity, with an endearing and daring quality, that was targeted at the adults. Alexandra Ansanelli, standing in for Miranda Weese, as the Dewdrop, was flawless and agile in her presentation.
Most notably, Sofiane Sylve, as the Sugarplum Fairy, appeared to be the golden thread that wove throughout Act II, with precision and timing, as well as amazing elevation, poise, elongation of legs and arms, buoyant presence, and a total command of the stage. Her Cavalier, Charles Askegard, was adept in his partnering and seasoned in the role. The Flowers and Marzipan Shepherdesses were focused and elegant, as they provided the fantastic fantasy that arouses the senses and enhances the imagery of this memorable dream.
In Act I, Daniel Ulbricht as the Soldier, Seth Orza as the Mouse King, and Shimon Ito as the Nutcracker demonstrated bravura and energy. The Snowflakes and entire snow scene were scintillating and sensational. Of course, James Fayette, as Herr Drosselmeier, and the Mice, as usual, gave campy performances, and the Soldiers appeared to rise from the pages of a beautiful storybook.
Karinska's costumes were exquisite, with the flowers in shades of pink and lavender, the brilliant yellow skirt of Mother Ginger, the yellow and pink of Marzipan, the striped pajama-like Candy Canes, and the rich browns of Hot Chocolate. Rouben Ter-Arutunian's scenery was perfection, complimented by Mark Stanley's creative lighting. Andrea Quinn was a poised and dynamic Conductor, and Jean Ingraham is to be lauded for the lengthy violin solos that enable the sensual themes in Act II to unfold so elegantly. Kudos to Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, for drawing loyal and new audiences to this superb, annual production.
Nutcracker with Crown
Photo by Paul Kolnik
Photo by Paul Kolnik
For more on the New York City Ballet, see our report from their Gala.