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Classic Dance Academy
A 2011 Nutcracker Tour Part I - Classical Dance Academy
On most years World Dance Reviews' (WDR) Front Range Colorado reviewer takes December off, given that only Nutcracker's are presented - and what can you say about yet another Nutcracker. But, in 2010 The New York Time's Alistair McCauley coped with that same-old-same-old attitude by taking a tour around the USA to review a number of those concerts. So we decided maybe we could do a similar WDR tour of just Front Range Colorado. In fact we will never be able to get to all the Front Range Nutcrackers. There are way too many even in that restricted area. And some - like Boulder Ballet's always great production - are over. But more than enough remain. So here is our first.
The Nutcracker Ballet history goes back to 1892, when the Russian Government funded production of a ballet called "Shchelkunchik" based on a fairy tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann - "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." Tchaikovsky wrote the music and Ivanov, Petipa, and others provided the libretto/ballet. Later - probably well into the 20th Century - the West made the ballet a Christmas production - mostly for children - and what is now seen as the "break through" choreography is that done by Balanchine in 1954. Now any number of productions exist based in that history, and are settled mostly in Balanchine's choreography. They include "traditional versions, and then vary from Mark Morris' "The Hard Nut," where all the flowers are men en pointe, to at least one where the rats win the war (performed as "The Ratcracker" by Boulder's Frequent Flyer Productions). We will stick to those closest to Balanchine's ideas.
The Classic Dance Academy (CDA) presented their "Nutcracker" version (called excerpts) at the Kim Robards Theater in Denver in two performances on Saturday December 3rd. That venue is not grandiose, but CDA's production was luscious in costumes of unrevealed origin. Choreography and staging was by Catherine Board and Michelle Dolighan-Rodenbeck with Coriann Aguilar. Those people did well getting young girls and boisterous boys into choreography they could do - even though counting and unison seems impossible prior to age 7. The production is mercifully shorter than most with no long first act parlor scene, no uncle Drosselmeyer, no mean Fritz, no dancing nutcracker turned prince, no rats, no war, no killing of the Rat King by Clara's shoe, etc. But there was plenty there to enjoy. Enjoy a lot.
In the evening performance, nine year old Gabriele Lukasik was a convincing and lovely Clara, with technique she used to preciously embody pretty advanced phrasing. A Marzipan trio by Madelyn Allen, Aliya Getchell, and Molly Parris was a delight that kept unison as real unison. Auden Martinez and Alexander Rodenbeck were diminutive Russians in rapid phrasing where they at times tried -and almost accomplished - similar unison. Ariel Gilliam danced the "Snow Queen" competently, as did Hannah Greenleaf "Chinese," and Brooke Caldwell "Arabian." Sylvie Cubbage was a delectable "Sugar Plum Fairy" in an elegant costume and tutu. Yes at times these young dancers had to find elusive proprioception at the beginning of difficult phrasing, and the slippery marley and no rosin precipitated some "almost" falls with great "saves." But it was all fun to watch.
To me the highlight of this performance was the "Waltz of the Flowers" and especially Elise Chessman's performance as "Dewdrop." Chessman found that role, totally embodied the choreography, and performed the dances flawlessly. But, I think it was not just her grace and beauty that made it "work." It was because she knew who she was and why she was out there.
Maybe it is the smaller productions like this one that personify current Nutcrackers, in that not only are they for children, but that young dancers perform them in ways that fulfill their dreams.
Donald K. Atwood
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