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 Post subject: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2002 2:26 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 12436
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Willam F. Christensen introduced the Nutcracker to Salt Lake audiences in 1955. The production has retained its essential elements throughout the past 46 years, although with a great deal of tinkering and tweaking by Mr. C. and his successor artistic directors of the past 23 years, Bruce Marks, John Hart and, currently, Jonas Kage. I first became familiar with this production in 1975, when Ballet West's home venue was Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, known for its very cramped stage; so cramped, in fact, that a door that was used to load in sets from a loading dock, located in the center of the back wall, was opened and a platform was constructed from which Clara and her prince to viewed the Act II festivities. There was no heat (and Salt Lake winters are cold and snowy) except for a small portable heater installed to take the chill away.<P>In 1976, I was pleased to vote for a bond issue for the restoration of an old vaudeville house, the Capitol Theatre, which has since become Ballet West's home. When I attended the closing performance at the Saturday matinee on December 29, this was my first opportunity to see the company perform the Nutcracker in their new home. I had also attended their Nutcracker performances on tour in Portland, Oregon during the Bruce Marks era of the eighties. As with the San Francisco Ballet, I have some concern for the preservation of the Christensen legacy inherent in the Nutcracker.<P>This was my second visit to the Capitol Theatre; my first was in 1998 for a spring mixed repertory performance during what was one of Jonas Kage's first seasons. The theatre is a jewel box of rococo exuberance. The lobby was enhanced by the serenade of carolers on the mezzanine balustrade. A very nice addition to the welcoming atmosphere.<P>Act I is substantially the same as the current production in San Francisco. The mechanical doll and mechanical bear (in this production, dressed in lederhosen and sporting an Alpine hat) dance together and engage in some partnering.<P>Principals Jessica Harston and Seth Olson made a stunning pair in the Snow pas de deux. Ms. Harston, in particular, has grown in strength and security since I last saw her in the spring of 1998. At that time, she was an object of some internal controversy because, as a corps member, she had captured the attention of Jonas Kage and was clearly being propelled to the head of the class. From the results in evidence last week, I would have to say that Mr. Kage's confidence was justified. She made quite a dazzling Snow Queen, both in the adagio section and in the brilliance, lightness and security of her allegro work. A pity that this is all we got to see of her.<P>In Act II, Spanish has now been reconstituted for a soloist (Donna Patzius on 12/29) and small ensemble. Sadly, on pointe, not character shoes, and the castanets have fallen by the wayside. [Mattlyn Gavers used to keep a photograph of herself in this part in her office...in character shoes, playing castanets.] Arabian remains much as I remember it, with a "vanishing" act (followed by a curtain call from the "wrong" side of the stage) that somehow seems less effective than it was on the smaller Kingsbury stage. (Note: in the Kingsbury days there was no crossover; the Arabian soloist had to *run* down a flight of stairs, streak down a corridor running the width of the stage and filled with wardrobe paraphernalia, dancers stretching out, children, etc., and up the stairs on the opposite side of the stage in order to make the "wrong side" curtain call. Ah, the "good old days!")<P>Chinese remains unchanged -- one male soloist who is a jumper and has 90-degree splits in the air. Another slight disappointment came in Merlitons, where it appears that someone decided to replace the toe-hops with something far less memorable. Russian used to have three men; it now sports five, including a soloist. The choreography for this was refined over the years, in consultation with Yurek Lazowsky, who taught at the University of Utah for a number of years.<P>Mother Buffoon (Ginger) has grown larger, although her dress still contains eight gymnastic buffoons. (Note: this weighty apparatus used to be harnessed to the performer's back; it was very heavy and the performer could only see through slits in "mother's" midriff. While the current contraption sails majestically along and allows the performer to see and be seen at its apogee, it does not permit the skirt to be twirled at the appropriate musical cue.)<P>Waltz of the Flowers now includes men...and not just one...there was quite a bit of corps partnering going on, in addition to the soloist partners. I have watched this one evolve; it used to be only 16 women (generally U. of U. students except for openings, closings, and other exceptional circumstances); in Portland, I noticed one year a "rose" was added and later a pas de deux couple. Now everyone is partnered. Nonetheless, at the very end, I prefer SFB's "rose blossom" formation. The choreographic design of this waltz is a good example of the "simpler is better" dictum. I enjoy it for its clarity and simple elegance; unlike some "fussier" versions, its seven or eight minutes of length never calls attention to itself.<P>The pas de deux (done in the proper order: adage, men's variation, Sugar Plum variation, coda...thank you, Mr. C.) was performed by soloist Leslie Ann Larson and principal Jeffrey Rogers. I found him to have genuine danseur noble qualities and Ms. Larson to have very centered technique and assuredness. The costume (presumably by David Heuvel) for her entrance at the beginning of the act is stunningly exquisite -- high back collar, long train held by fairy attendants.<P>The orchestra, under new music director Terence Kern, played well. Live singers for Snow were supplied from among the choir members who serenaded the audience before the performance and at intermission.<P>[This message has been edited by Francis Timlin (edited January 03, 2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by Francis Timlin (edited January 08, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 11:29 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Thank you very much, Francis for this review. I always enjoy reading what you have to say...it's always so well done.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2002 11:46 am 
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Posts: 8612
Location: El Granada, CA, USA
And thank you for the bits of history. It's nice to know where we come from.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2002 2:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 661
Location: Seattle, WA. USA
I adore this version. It's probably my all-time favorite! I find that it has the perfect balance of dancing and choreographic and production values. Watching it again this past December for the first time after a too long hiatus, I had the impression that I was watching the ballet equivalent of Grand Opera. It's clear to me that Mr. "C" thought that the art of ballet was on a par with that of opera...and this shows in his conceptions of each dance and scene and how he makes use of compositional techniques to achieve these effects. Grand in scale, this Nutcracker delivers and is not overly done nor too fussy.<P>Performers were unilateraly strong, clean and carefully trained and coached. As I'm fond of saying of good dancing and dancers, "they were balm for my eyes!"<P>I particularly enjoyed and feel that "Waltz of the Flowers, "Snow" scene, and the "Grand Pas de Deux" were among the most successful. I must agree with Francis that I miss the old "Spanish" and wonder what happened to the charming "Mirlitons" that I used to watch year after year.<P>Never the less, this is a version that finds this writer reduced to quivering jello by final curtain. Glorious and full of joy, hope and promise, this is not at all a "dark" Nutcracker. But one that leaves audience members similing and sighing.<P>The love and respect that Mr. "C" had for his art is reflected in his life's work and very much so in this ballet and I hope will be one of his legacys for years and years to come.

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Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2002 11:46 pm 
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Posts: 591
Quote:
'Nutcracker': The Latvians are coming!

Favorite holiday ballet arrives in Ogden Nov. 29, 30

By KAREN ANNE WEBB
Standard-Examiner correspondent

When Ballet West brings its annual holiday treat to Ogden, the company will play host to its first member from the state of Latvia. Soloist Viktorija Jansone will dance the role of the Snow Queen at the Browning Center, then move on to other roles, including the Sugar Plum Fairy, later in the run. <a href=http://www.standard.net/standard/news/news_story.html?sid=00021121191114805345+cat%3Dgo+template%3Dnews1.html&TVS=1%24670550226%2450%24Sat+Nov+23+00%3A48%3A06+EST+2002-472046% 240%24537983EA59B7A4703CCDD84500E6BD26&CSBOX=1%24158%240%24USD%240.0%2410.0%2420.0%240.0%240%240%2433%3AUSD%3AUSD%3AL4%2C0%2C.05%2C.02%2C.05%2C10%2C0%2C.25%2418%3AUSD%3AUSD%3AL1%2C .02%2C.05&CSAK=CSAK%3A1038031183749%3AFF653699F514948B1F8A246A2115C565>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2002 10:09 pm 
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Posts: 591
Quote:
Young Dancers Win Plum Roles in 'The Nutcracker'

Salt Lake Tribune

The following dancers were selected for roles in the alternating children's casts for Ballet West's treasured holiday tradition, "The Nutcracker," which plays at Capitol Theatre from Dec. 6 to 28. more


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2002 3:40 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
A nice article on the up and coming stars:

Quote:
Stars of 'Nutcracker' First Must Rise Through the Ranks

Celia R. Baker, Salt Lake Tribune

When the glittery Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier sail through their breathtaking leaps, spins and lifts in "The Nutcracker's" Grand Pas de Deux, it is a moment of glory usually preceded by a slow climb from the ranks of Ballet West's corps de ballet.
<a href=http://www.sltrib.com/2002/dec/12012002/arts/7077.htm target=_blank>More</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2002 3:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Another list of kids who made it into the production:

Quote:
More Kids Land 'Nutcracker' Roles

Salt Lake Tribune

Ballet West's beloved annual production of "The Nutcracker" includes several groups of miniature buffoons who accompany Mother Buffoon, a character found in the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
<a href=http://www.sltrib.com/2002/dec/12012002/arts/7078.htm target=_blank>More</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2002 3:27 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
A good review:

Quote:
'Nutcracker' Notable for Its Musicality

Karen Anne Webb, Salt Lake Tribune

The opening night of Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" was one of its cleanest, tightest, most musical and dramatically cogent performances.
<a href=http://www.sltrib.com/2002/dec/12072002/saturday/9203.asp target=_blank>More</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballet West Nutcracker
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2003 9:23 am 
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Posts: 6778
Location: Estonia
Quote:
Review: 'The Nutcracker' shines with holiday finesse

By CELIA BAKER
The Salt Lake Tribune

The only difficulty in describing the delights of Ballet West's beloved annual production of "The Nutcracker" is in knowing where to begin. There is good reason why this beloved holiday confection has such staying power: It never fails to dazzle and entertain.

Willam Christensen, who choreographed this version of Tchaikovsky's timeless score, created a shrewd blend of artistry and old-fashioned showmanship. Ballet aficionados have the pleasure of seeing charming divertissements, breathtaking pas de deux and elaborate dances for corps de ballet. Still, the essence of "The Nutcracker's" popularity comes from its less sophisticated aspects; the show brims with magic, whimsy, surprise and spectacle.
more


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