The corps gave a hard working account of
Waltz of the Snowflakes
(choreography by Terri Lewis) that wasfull of coming and going and all the kaleidoscopic effects that the moment requires. I was moved by thegenerous, effortful dancing in the student ensemble which clearly felt the importance of the big time balletmoment and dug down deep to stay aloft and together. Jacie Jewett and Evan Swenson were capable as TheSnow Queen and King though they at times seemed over challenged by the partnering which did not alwaysgo smoothly. At the conclusion the snow fell and so did the wall of fiery live embers, as Clara heads off inher airborne sleigh.Everything
continues into Act II, including the very large white horse in a walk-on part whichcompletes the sleigh journey. Most impressive were the Merlitons (choreography by Lewis) lead by theexcellent Anna Wassman who lent the ensemble of five with authority in the realm of classical style andrefined gesture. Lighting up
was a quartet of smartly attired cavaliers (Leonid LeonidovichFlegmatov, James Pfleger, Julian Sanz and Evan Swenson) who all were excellent with tours, turns and sure partnering. Melissa Sandvig as the Dewdrop Fairy completed the picture with stylish dancing and personalradiance in her demi soloist role. The choreography (Wilcox) was rich and offered the full measure of a bigclassical ensemble supported by great music. I especially liked the cross-stage tour jetés and the overalldesign which reminded me of the
Waltz of the Flowers
William Christensen’s first American
for San Francisco Ballet.
All of the
in Act II had something to offer.
notable for its corps of dancerswhich offered strength in numbers and was a thronging backdrop to the two soloists Jennifer Lopez andMichael Sorenson, who were convincing in their cross handed turns and flashy poses. The
both used brief extensions of the music to accommodate theatrical enhancementsand a bit of extra dance. The Chinese dance (Tiffany Kuehl and Teddy Watler) with its added attendantswas especially charming. Christina Jones was sinuous and provocative as the Arabian harem dancer and proved too much for her handler, Ben Majors, whose disengaged partnering left the overall effort wanting.The towering Mother Ginger (Hilde Byrne) and her massive brood made good on the essential comedy inher part but couldn’t avoid collisions with the scenery in the exits and entrances. Even the little things haveto go well if you want to keep the magic alive.Rachel Riley and Kyohei Yoshida, both on loan as soloists from Grand Rapids Ballet, were excellent in the
Grand Pas de Deux.
I liked especially Yoshida’s sustained, relaxed tempo in the
which he filledwith turns and double tours in succession. Riley in the
Sugar Plum Variation
was full of complexity butalso caution. The partnered sections in the opening music and in the
fared well. Both dancersmanaged to produce the romanticism and the big lifts and turning combinations with confidence.Adding to the joys of this
were the full scale sets and luxurious costumes. Both wereconsistently imaginative. Especially impressive was the Act II set, a Baroque architectural environmentwith clouds hung in a sunset sky. The scenery of Act I explodes, producing a dramatic transformation of theStahlbaum family living room into the battle scene and the revelation of the Nutcracker Doll and Prince.The growing Christmas tree gives us the essential ingredient in making Clara’s fantasy seem possible. Itwas beautifully staged. The designs were by Elliott Hessayon, Rex Heuschkel and Scott Shaffer. Costumedesigns by Donna Dickens, Adrian Clarke and Anna De Farra were elegant and offered in profusion. The big emerald tutus of the Merlitons were particularly rich. I also liked the Degas-styled long tutus in pink,fuchsia and peach for
Wilcox has devoted himself to a very theatrical version of the
It is more entertaining than mostand you can’t help but admire the quality of the dancers as well as their sheer numbers. And while I am nota fan of fireworks or live animals on stage, it is clear that Wilcox has made for himself and his adventurouscompany a version faithful to the ballet’s classical intent and one that seems true to itself. The last time Ifelt so wrapped up in the
was when the Joffrey Ballet brought their Currier andIves inspired version to The Music Center. And that’s one you should see too if you get the chance.