Ballet West’s Nutcracker Delights Generations
Posted by Betsy Hijazi December 28, 2009
This season I saw Ballet West’s Nutcracker for the third year in a row. In fact, I’ve seen it now six times in three years. But this year it’s different.
The first year I saw the Nutcracker at the Capitol Theatre, it was the first time I’d seen the ballet and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Not really knowing much about ballet or how it all played out on stage, it was strange to me that there were dancers on stage acting out parts, but no words were spoken.
I was intrigued by the musicians in the orchestra pit and wanted to see them play the live music as much as I wanted to keep my eyes on the dancers, the story, the scenery, and the multitude of dances and costumes!
It really is a marvelous experience, attending the ballet, the symphony, or an operatic performance (I have yet to see my first opera!). Your senses are invigorated, and your brain is working like crazy trying to absorb all of the sights and sounds, not to mention the roller coaster of emotions you experience as you assimilate it all!
If you’re lucky, and if you make the effort, a couple of times a year you get to sit in the audience in a theater and be a part of something a bit magical.
Each December, the beloved Nutcracker is performed on stages and in theaters across the globe. Children worldwide know the story of the Nutcracker who comes to life, and I would be surprised to come across someone who was unfamiliar with the music Pyotr (Peter) Tchaikovsky wrote for his ballet 115 years ago. Ironically, Tchaikovsky apparently didn’t care much for the ballet or score, yet it is one of the most loved ballets and recognized pieces of music by children and adults alike!
I knew the music to the Nutcracker far better than I knew the Nutcracker Ballet. Seeing the Nutcracker for the first time, I was able to match music to dance to story and it it was glorious. Like a good book, a ballet is understood and appreciated even more after multiple viewings, so I returned to the theater to see it again (and again)!
This year, my third season attending Ballet West’s Nutcracker, I surprised myself. I wanted to see the ballet and write about it, but I thought I might not love it as much since I had already seen it five times prior. On the contrary, I loved it even more!
2009 has been filled with music and art, and my appreciation for the details, the obvious as well as the not so obvious, has grown. My senses are much more aware and I see things that others may overlook, specifically because I am looking and trying to pay great attention to everything that contributes to the whole of the ballet.
Two things specifically contributed to this being my favorite Nutcracker performance thus far. First was my familiarity with some of the dancers. Having recently seen Christopher Sellars,Christopher Ruud, Michael Bearden, Beau Pearson, Christiana Bennett Ruud, and Romi Bepu in the Ballet West Gala and The Dream, I have been able to (mostly) identify these dancers and appreciate their artistry and diversity.
Most memorable for me is Christopher Sellars. He danced the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, part of The Dream program earlier this fall. Sellars was so buoyant, light and humorous on the stage. He had great expression and character, and he hooked me!
During my Nutcracker performance this season, Sellars was the Nutcracker. What I particularly liked about Sellars portraying the Nutcracker was his youth. Last season’s Nutcracker (dancer) was wonderful; he was handsome, mature, and had an amazing physique!
The same can be said of Sellars, except that his face is more youthful and I believe it was well matched with the youth of Clara. Together, they seemed closer in age, Sellars more like an older brother rather than a toy come to life as a grown up. It was a nice pairing.
The second most significant cause of my joy was the music. Yes, I have heard the music — many times over. I’ve even heard it at the ballet. But this year, I really heard it. It’s likely that my newfound love for orchestral music has caused me to become more aware of the music as a whole, but my awareness combined with this beloved ballet and its music put a smile on my face that left me feeling giddy and wanting to go back and see it again!
The Nutcracker is keenly identified by its music and the Utah Chamber Orchestra performs it beautifully. Jane Wadsworth’s flute is flawless, and Jed Moss’ Dance of the Sugar PlumFairy on the celesta is possibly the most sung tune of the entire ballet.
Each dance is paired with artists who bring words to the stage through dance and music, and Clara and the Nutcracker are presented with a variety of cultures and their respective dances. We see magnificent dances from Spain, Asia, Russia and Arabia as the dancers tumble, kick, leap, jump, twirl and fly across the stage.
One of the highlights of the first act was Peter Christie’s Dr. Dosselmeyer. I haven’t seen Christie dance before, and his portrayal of our magician was nothing less than perfection. Christie moved with grace and elegance, every motion sweeping and endless. He was expressive with his face and with every movement, gesture, and flick of his wrist. I hope to see him in future performances!
The Nutcracker has many dances, and it is a joy to see the variety of costumes and stories told through each ballet. Beautiful fairies and maidens float across the stage, and our imaginations take us to lands far away. There is beauty and grace, there is strength and wisdom. And there are children sitting on the edge of their seat pointing to the beautiful Snow Queen and King as they dance into our hearts.
The artists, the dancers and musicians bring such joy to children and adults throughout the month of December, and little girls and boys take this joy home with them as they run to the merchandise tables during intermission to buy ballet slippers and their very own Nutcrackers.
December is a wonderful time to go to the ballet. At no other time during the year will you see more children embracing the love of the ballet as they are exposed to the artistry of dance, music and the imagination of the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is where dreams begin, and for the parents and grandparents sitting alongside their little dreamers, it is a dream shared through generations.
For more information about Ballet West, visit www.BalletWest.org.
Photos courtesy Mark Goldweber, Ballet West.