If someone told you they had no clue what a Sugarplum Fairy was, you’d think they were nuts! That goes to show just how famous the Russian ballet The Nutcracker has become, despite its flop premier in December of 1892. Although International Ballet Theater’s performance of this classic held fast to its traditional beauty, with stunning pas de deux performances by Russian dancers Maria Makarenko and Dmitry Zavalishin, I left the theater with somewhat ambivalent feelings about the overall production.
Photo by Rex Tranter
The story of The Nutcracker is relatively well-known: it begins at a Victorian Christmas Party at the Stahlbaum home, where there is much merriment and frivolity. They are soon joined by Clara and Fritz Stahlbaum’s godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer. He gives Clara a Nutcracker doll as a present, which she instantly falls in love with, and when she falls asleep that night, she finds herself in a fantasy land full of twirling snowflakes and dancing candies. We follow her dream as the Nutcracker is transformed into a gallant prince and she into a beautiful princess and they travel to the Prince’s Kingdom of Sweets.
Anyone would have been dazzled by the exquisite costumes and beautiful sets; children would have been awed by the falling snow and changing lights. But I was distracted by the inefficiency of the sound timing. The pre-recorded soundtrack took away from the magic of the dancing at times, especially on the few painful occasions when the Nutcracker’s grand entrance was momentarily accompanied by silence. For about the first half of Act One, I was somewhat reminded of a school play by the ill-timed movement of a couple of the youngsters and the inefficient attention to certain details, such as one dancer’s blouse being too short, a few of the ballerina’s un-tucked straps, and a backstage hand being distractingly visible from the audience. However, when the “real” dancers came out, the dancing in and of itself was beautifully and skillfully orchestrated: the Arabian “coffee” scene was absolutely enrapturing, the Chinese “tea” soloist was warm and inviting, and the Snowflakes’ graceful movements sucked you into the child-like dream of it all.
None of the staff appeared in any way unhappy to be there, and the cheery Christmas music in the lobby – as well as the outdoor accompaniment of a dancing, musical Christmas tree – served its purpose of drawing you into the holiday mood. But even with the enchanting dancing, sets, and costumes, I can’t say I would recommend $30-$40 a ticket to take the family. If you’re a hardcore Nutcracker fan, you’ll probably enjoy this traditional performance of the beloved classic. But as for me, I left the theater not quite knowing what I was supposed to have gotten from that. I guess I just didn’t quite “get it.”
December 9th, 2007
International Ballet Theatre at The Meydenbauer Theatre
Through December 23rd
More info and show times: http://www.interballettheatre.org/
IBT’s Ticket Office: 425-284-0444
International Ballet Theatre performs at the Meydenbauer Theatre, 11100 NE 6th St, Bellevue, WA. It is served by Metro Transit routes 555, 556, 271, 233, 237, 249, 261, 342, 230, 232, 253, 240, 885, 921 and many others. For bus routes and times: tripplanner.metrokc.gov
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