The Miami City Ballet’s Nutcracker is an exquisite production
âThe Nutcrackerâ is a holiday tradition every year. But the Miami City Ballet’s performances this year are even more meaningful – representing, for many spectators, a return to live dancing since the start of the pandemic.
MCB opened its “The Nutcracker of George Balanchine” holiday tour December 10-12 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, with a roster of 54 people, including 16 new dancers. The performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday showcased a company of considerable talent.
The ballet has now moved to the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami where it will be performed until Sunday, and then will be performed at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach until December 30.
The performances at the Broward Center featured magnificent music performed by the Opus One Orchestra, under conductor and principal conductor Gary Sheldon on Friday and Saturday and guest conductor Laura Joella on Sunday, as well as terrific violin solos from solo violin Mei Mei Luo .
Isabel Toledo costumes
The late Isabel Toledo, famous bespoke designer for women, and her husband, artist and illustrator Ruben Toledo, revamped MCB’s âThe Nutcrackerâ in 2017, and their magic appears throughout production, with costumes featuring stunning fabric combinations. Wendall Harrington’s projections and John Hall’s lighting imbued traditional scenic elements with an otherworldly feel, like when the Christmas tree takes on titanic proportions.
Balanchine divided the ballet into two acts and shaped it with roles for the entire company, from students to professionals. One of the advantages of so many productions is that audiences often see dancers in unexpected roles, such as corps dancers playing lead roles usually reserved for soloists or principals. This was the case for Broward’s performances this year, with happy results.
The first act opened with a holiday party at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum, where guests gathered including Herr Drosselmeier (played by Reyneris Reyes). The watchmaker and inventor came to bring gifts: wonderful automated dancing toys for children. Playing the toys, dancers Mayumi Enokibara as Columbine and Shimon Ito as Toy Soldier best created the illusion of mechanical life – Enokibara hopping in arabesque and Ito spinning in double turns.
Drosselmeier also brought his nephew (wonderfully performed all weekend long by Dominick Scherer, in his ninth year with the production) and a traditional Nutcracker doll, both of whom captivate the Stahlbaums’ daughter Marie (the radiant Allegra Dacquino Richerson ).
When the revelers dispersed, Marie fell asleep with her Nutcracker doll next to the Christmas tree, later awakening to the legions of the Seven-Headed Mouse King (Cameron Catazaro) infesting the house. Act II ended with the organization of the Nutcracker and small soldiers to fight the army of mice.
Marie first had to cross a winter landscape to get to the Land of Candy. At the first chirps of the piccolo, dancer Ellen Grocki rushed to the center, broke in pointe, then rushed followed by Enokibara, Matilda Solis and Taylor Naturkas. In the “Snowflakes Waltz”, 16 dancers crisscrossed the stage in Â¾ time, pounded by a blizzard of paper. One streak had several dancers rushing to the center, then jumping, snapping their legs and still spinning in the air, accelerating in a new direction as they hit the ground, mimicking the play of snow in the wind.
Dancing was exquisite
MCB’s body dancers were thrilling and displayed exquisite timing all weekend long.
In Act II, Marie now finds herself a princess escorted by her Nutcracker doll turned prince (Scherer) in a land teeming with sweets and cakes. Ruben Toledo’s tongue-in-cheek touches were everywhere, including lime slices framing a pineapple wreath and 30-foot ice cream painted on the leg curtains draping the stage. This transition set up a series of dances by the citizens of the kingdom ruled by the fairy Sugar Plum.
First, the chocolate dance. Lead Chocolates – Nicole Stalker and Damian Zamorano on Friday and Sunday and Adrienne Carter and Francisco Schilereff on Saturday – took to the skies and sailed the Basque jump with just as high energy. The dancers’ dark brown velvet coats and bodices here represent a winner from Toledo.
For Coffee’s meandering dance, MCB newcomer Hannah Fischer’s Saturday night performance was spectacular, combining contortionism and impressive theatricality.
Ito and MCB newcomer Andrei Chagas have been impressive as a male leader in the tea segment. Ito was impeccable, slashing his legs as he jumped forward in a bell throw, and Chagas was bursting with energy, throwing lunges to close the passage.
On Friday, an equally energetic Alexander Peters took to the candy cane dance, slamming lap after lap while skipping rope with his hoop.
Grocki held the role of lead shepherdess on Friday and Saturday, working perfectly on the role’s eccentric peak work, set to a piccolo and staccato flute.
Originally an image on a brand of chocolates in the 1880s, Mother Ginger’s revamp of Toledo – performed by Bradley Dunlap on Friday and Harrison Monaco on Saturday and Sunday – had a satisfying sci-fi monster air about it.
Slipping off her voluminous skirts, student dancers Lara Chiang, Evangeline Faraldo, Grace Milam, Carolina Rodriguez, Mia Chiang, Grace Eaton, Pamela Hall, Celeste Martinez were always precise, highly coordinated and dynamic in every performance as Polichinelles – by name of clown-shaped chocolates.
In “Flower Waltz” lead Nathalia Arja as Dewdrop wowed on Friday and Saturday, packing furious energy into her upper body movements and well-defined whips. However, a softer take on the role by newly-formed body dancer Naturkas on Sunday was also memorable.
Directors Tricia Albertson and Steven Loch have been spectacular in the roles of the Sugar Plum fairy and her rider. Loch carefully secured Albertson with spins and elevators, and his throws in the coda were impressive.
Samantha Hope Galler and Ariel Rose played the duo in the Sunday cast and were adorable as well. Hopefully MCB has some future performance in mind for this couple.
Several North American dance companies have succumbed to the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic, and some dance watchers have openly speculated whether audiences will even return to theaters with the vaccines available, claiming that the dancers’ calls for racism and bodily shame could keep people away.
In this latest production, the Miami City Ballet featured a company whose talent base clearly expanded during closure, and whose Toledo-inspired “The Nutcracker” continues to be read as a commitment to classical dance. a truly multiracial and multicultural art form.
If you are going to
WHAT: Miami City Ballet presents “The Nutcracker by George Balanchine”
OR WHEN: Performances continue at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami) from December 16 to 26, and at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts (701 Okeechobee Road, West Palm Beach) from December 29 to 30.
COST: $ 34 to $ 109
SAFETY PROTOCOLS: Be sure to review your venue’s COVID-19 health policies before attending a show; visit arshtcenter.org/en/Visit/health-safety-covid-19 or kravis.org/healthsafety
INFORMATION: 305-929-7010; 877-929-7010 (toll free); miamicityballet.org/casse-noisette
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