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American Ballet Theatre - 'Nutcracker'
vs. Odd Choreography
by Art Priromprintr
December 18, 2003
-- Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa, CA
American Ballet Theatre’s "Nutcracker"
is back in southern California for the third consecutive year, in Kevin
McKenzie’s charming but oddly conceived production. The colorful sets
and cutesy happenings of the party scene start the show off on a good
foot, but once the actual ballet dancing begins (with a pas de deux for
the Nutcracker and Clara after the battle scene, danced by petite adults
in the ABT production), the choreography takes a turn for the worse and
any semblance of a story gets thrown out the window. But, ABT’s dancers
manage to sustain the evening with some valiant dancing that more than
makes up for the production’s shortcomings.
On Thursday, December 18, Erica
Cornejo and Craig Salstein were a sweet Clara and Nutcracker, with Cornejo
as an especially endearing Clara who kept a lovable smile throughout the
role’s busy technical challenges. Salstein showed impressive verve and
bravely toted Clara around through the choreography’s constant, overly
Monique Meunier was a fantastic and authoritative Snow Queen in the Waltz
of the Snowflakes, making the most of her brief three minutes on stage.
She showed an instinctive musicality, emphasizing the dramatic sweep of
the Snowflakes music while dominating the stage with a commanding stage
Irina Dvorovenko was technically pristine but an emotionally cold Sugar
Plum Fairy; she impressed with her pliability and control, but was more
like a placid porcelain doll in a role that requires a more stunning effect
to make its mark. Gennadi Saveliev was a sturdy and princely partner as
Dvorovenko’s Cavalier, but did little to increase the pas de deux’s wattage.
The dancers push through McKenzie’s undistinguished choreography admirably;
McKenzie choreographed most of this "Nutcracker," except the
Waltz of the Flowers, which was choreographed by John Meehan. McKenzie’s
choreography is overly active, filled with complicated lifts, twists and
turns that often keep the dancers rushing to complete the moves instead
of actually dancing. Clara and the Nutcracker’s dancing in particular
is mostly a lot of lifting and swinging around -- so much swinging around
that it often looks like the dancers are making mistakes even though it
is just the quick-moving choreography. Big dances like the Waltz of the
Snowflakes lack musicality or a sense of order. It’s a lot of jumbled
The dancers push through and make it work, however. In the end, great
casting can put a smile on your face and make you walk away happy from
this "Nutcracker." Dvorovenko and Saveliev didn’t quite do it
on the level I’ve seen in the past (Julie Kent and Angel Corella as Sugar
Plum Fairy and the Cavalier last year come to mind as a particularly successful
couple), but Meunier, Cornejo and Salstein did an admirable job.
Edited by Lori Ibay
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