Season's Last Nutcracker
The Washington Ballet
Sunday, December 28, 2003
by George Jackson
copyright © 2004 by George Jackson
On the last
day of its run this year, Mary Day's The Nutcracker attracted
family. Not only did persons from the dance world attended but, by and
large, the general audience, too, knew what to expect. Even the children
regarded it as something of a holiday habit. It seemed they had been to
Miss Day's show before or had heard of it as cherished lore. By the time
they left the theater, the not-so-young and the not-that-old alike had
feasted their eyes and ears a little. The juniors may also have learned
to pay attention and had the chance to practice their manners by not talking
during the dancing and not applauding out of turn.
The production is a traditional Nutcracker with original touches.
It is modest in an American way and has roots in a Washington that was
still innocent of Kennedy Center. In the memories of old timers the images
of certain dancers in certain roles flicker persistently, no matter how
vital the current cast. There's a Favorite Aunt at the first act's Christmas
party who always makes me think of Chelsea Clinton. Her hair swept up
in young Eleanor Roosevelt style, she knew just how to call attention
to herself in order to move the action along. She also knew how to withdraw
from the limelight graciously without totally disappearing. I saw Miss
Clinton do the part just once (it was also a final performance of the
run) and remember becoming aware that the man sitting a few seats away
and gazing at her intently thru binoculars was her dad. In the Snow Scene
that concludes Act 1, Bonnie Moore's cool regality is as hard to forget.
So is the warmth and graciousness in Act 2's Kingdom of Sweets with which
Amanda McKerrow's Sugar Plum Fairy received her niece, Jenna McKerrow
as Clara. Going further back, I see a Nutcracker Prince with James Canfield's
features long before he and Pat Miller became the Joffrey Ballet's principal
couple and he had taken to choreorgaphing, wearing leather and sporting
tattoos. At the time, Canfield was also trying his hand at writing about
dance. Didn't Choo San Goh do Candy Cane? That was before Miss Day asked
him to make the Chinese Dance we see today, the one in which twin girls
on pointe unfurl long red ribbons.
The Washington Ballet put some of its most prominent dancers into the
December 28 matinee. Jared Nelson with his long blond hair was dashing
as he, yes, dashed through more than one role—Party Guest, Snow
King, Candy Cane. He brings excitement to the stage, even when he forces
the choreography. One can see him think and do—signs of a budding
choreographer. As his Snow Queen, compact Brianne Bland had the neatly
old fashioned trait of sculpting something tangible out of thin air wherever
she paused. That ability to create places to inhabit on stage is lacking
in the newer breed of dancers who let themselves dissolve into space.
Michele Jimenez, as Sugar Plum Fairy, made someone sitting nearby comment
that she's a dancer of Kirov caliber. Jimenez in motion is rich as cream.
A single impulse informs her whole body. She was partnered by Runquiao
Du, who has learned to wear courtly manners easily, in a way that becomes
him and the scale of the production. Jason Hartley, leading the Mirlitons,
knew it would be wrong to tackle a classical role as gymnastics. Choreographically
this passage of the ballet is in the Meissen porcelain manner of Ivanov,
musically it is in Tchaikovsky's Mozartian mood. So, Hartley danced wisely,
with a restraint that was free of strain. Drosslemeyer, as John Goding
mimed the story's instigator, was as an interplay of light and shadow.
Like the fire in a fireplace, he was welcoming but with hints of danger.
As his Nephew who is transformed into the Nutcracker Prince, young Matthew
Dowsett displayed precision in his dancing and in his bearing a right
blend of spontaneity with polite manners. Natalya Sverjensky's Star did
sparkle. That the Christmas party was a tad stilted on this occasion didn't
affect the subsequent scenes.
Volume 2, Number 1
January 5, 2004
Jean Battey Lewis
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
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