OKC BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER
By Nancy Condit
Every once in a while, this viewer will get new insight from an annual tradition. This was true last night at the Civic Center during the Oklahoma City Ballet's "The Nutcracker," with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, directed by Joel Levine.
The understanding was this, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, through his music of a procession, and artistic director Robert Mills, following the choreography of Les Ivanov and Marius Petipas, through his dance, transformed an ordinary Christmas party in an upper middle class Victorian home into an occurrence of majesty. With the orchestral announcement of the procession of the benevolent rulers, the adults took the floor for their dance and moved in grand rows toward the audience. The families gathered had the importance of any other court.
The newest part of the ballet, that also keeps it refreshed for the adult audience, was the addition of a young crush for the 12 or 13 year old Clara, Hans, in the character of Hans, Drosselmyer's apprentice. In Clara's dream he appears as the Nutcracker and accompanies her to the Land of Sweets. Mills added two pas de deux for the adult dancers, both of which were pleasing, but still, especially in the first one, tread a thin choreographic line between accomplished adult members of the company, on that night Callye McCollum and Tye Love, dancing as half grown people
It was pleasant to see that much of the Waltz of the Flowers was kept while McCollum and Love danced the pas de deux. Seeing them dance more full out as adults was also a relief, perhaps a foreshadowing of their relationship as adults. Seeing how the dance is polished in subsequent productions is anticipated.
The Christmas treat more than lived up to expectations, with children as young as six dancing as little angels and pages, and a little white mouse. Older children tumbled, literally, from under the skirts of Mother Ginger,
and were the heart of the Christmas party.
The best of the performances were the two pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, danced by new company members Sarah Chun and Yui Sato. In their opening pas de deux, Sato had a variation in which he leapt, landed on one foot, and elegantly touched the stage with just the toe of his straight back leg. In the final grand pas de deux, they were perfect partners, as Chun executed an almost endless series of pirouettes, circling Sato, while he kept her steady, and caught her as she leapt to sit on his shoulder. In the final catch, he caught her as she plunged toward the floor. Both of them kept wonderful lines.
The exquisite and delicate dancing of the second act, in the Land of Sweets, came to a high point of spun sugar fantasy in the Marzipan dance with Ellany Abbott, accompanied by Alyssa Daly and Amber Feeney. Abbott was exquisite. Also enjoyable were the Snowflakes, scattering hands full of snow over the stage, the humorous Spanish Chocolate divertissement with David Barocio, Carissa Churchil and Anna Doss, the sinuous Arabian Coffee divertissement with Darli Iakovleva and Anton Iakolev, the Russian Cossack dance with Joshua Crespo and Ryan Piper, and the excellent corps.
Dale Hall's set and lighting design, especially in the Snowflakes with the translucent blue backdrop, was very good, as were the costumes, especially on the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, by Michael Jones, Suzanne Hobbs, and Marcus Ford.
The one disappointing note is that the garlands of lights on the boxes that rise to the ceiling in the auditorium
are shut off as soon as the production is over. It dampens the festivity.
The performances run today, December 22 at 2 p.m., and December 16 - 18, including a 7 p.m. Friday performance, a 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. performance on Saturday and a 2 p.m. performance on Sunday.
Individual ticket prices range from $10 to $52. Online ticketing is available at http://www.okcballet.com/tickets.html, by phone at 405.848.TOES, or at the Civic Center Box Office.