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"The Nutcracker" at The Colorado Ballet - The Mother Ginger of Them All
World Dance Reviews' tour of Front Range Colorado 2011 Nutcracker performances ended with the Colorado Ballet's performance at Denver's Ellie Calkins Opera House the evening of December 18th. During this tour it was so interesting to see how companies "adjusted" to allow for personnel and venue, especially in Act I, which requires a large cast of party goers, kids, and a sumptuous Christmas setting. Some companies simply removed various roles. Some adjusted to lacks of set with projections. All the performances were fun to watch. The Colorado Ballet (CB) just does not have to adjust. With their big professional company and large school of well trained dancers they can totally fill out each and every role required wonderfully - even recruiting Governors Hickenlooper and Owens as the Sherpas that carry in Arabian Chandra Kuykendall, who danced the Act II Arabian with Dmitri Trubchanov. And Colorado Ballet has "The Ellie" with its fly space, and a full pallet of scenes to fly into the stage at will. That truly makes the Colorado Ballet's Nutcracker the "Mother Ginger" of all Front Range, and probably Mountain West, Nutcrackers.
Despite numerous accomplished students in their school CB chose to cast both Clara and her Nutcracker Prince from their company - in this performance Akusa Sasaki as Clara and Luis Valdes as the Prince. The result was consummate Clara/Prince duets danced to perfection. Gregory Gonzales was a most convincing Uncle Drosselmeyer, who charmed Clara and the party guests even as he scolded Fritz - danced wonderfully by Rylan Schwab, who broke the nutcracker right on cue. Drosselmeyer's Doll was danced as wonderfully mechanical with virtuoso legs and feet by Morgan Buchanan, and his Soldier Doll by Adam Still. The soldiers and cavalry (yes, cavalry) were precise and efficient, the mice bothersome, and their King loathsome as danced by Christopher Moulton, who uncharacteristically made the sign of the cross after being stabbed, and then died with a sudden convulsive flop. The Crystals and Snowflakes were lovely as they danced in an almost real blizzard, and Act I ended with Clara and her Prince flying off in an ornate sleigh behind an upstage scrim.
The Drosselmeyer created Magic Kingdom(s) was/were stunning - at times filled with dancing puppet toys. As one of the Sherpas, Govenor Hickenlooper folded his arms so very elegantly, and departed with high stepping lifted knees and flexed feet. The Spanish dancers - Gregory DeSantis, Morgan Buchanan, and Christina Schifano - were competent in sort of "so what" choreography. Sean Omandam was an exiting pole vaulting Chinese, with a delightful Dragon powered by Katy Bowlby, Alec Roth, and Lily Young. The Marzipan were lovely, and Ryan Schwab and Alex Still provided two wonderfully combative and competing Russians. Nicole Ahrens donated elegant legs to Alec Roth's puppet Mother Ginger, and all the Flowers waltzed beautifully with Caitlin Valentine-Ellis as a svelte and graceful Dew Drop. Shelby Dyer's and Christopher Ellis' Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier were beautiful, with all lifts in the pas de deux exciting and executed well. Ellis' variation was stunning and Dyer's fouettes spot on.
To me this performance revolved around the Drosselmeyer character created in Gregory Gonzales - who has a rare ability to transmit his gestures, emotions in those gestures, and mystery to the last row in the last balcony - and in Asuka Sasaki's Clara and Luis Valdes' Prince, whose dancing allowed Uncle Drosselmeyer to make it all about them.
Donald K. Atwood
© Copyright World Dance Reviews 2011