There is a tendency to think of “The
Nutcracker” as little more than a sparkling holiday ritual designed
primarily to lure family audiences into the world of ballet. But as the
Joffrey Ballet demonstrated so impressively at this season’s opening
night performance of Robert Joffrey’s now 23-year-old Victorian era
American take on the Russian classic, the work easily can serve as a
splendid, richly varied showcase for the company’s many highly
accomplished dancers. And the fireworks currently on display at the
Auditorium Theatre — along with those so visible during the company’s
bravura fall program of ballets by Balanchine, Robbins and Christopher
Wheeldon — reinforces the sense that the Joffrey ensemble is in
exceptional form these days.
There are countless delights in this year’s
production, which has been polished to a high gleam, and tweaked with
the addition of countless little details that clarify the storytelling.
But it was the bravura dancing that most impressed on opening night.
(Several different casts will rotate throughout the run.)
Particularly felicitous was the pairing of
Yumelia Garcia as the Sugarplum Fairy and Mauro Villanueva as the
Nutcracker Prince. Garcia is a petite woman with exquisitely articulate
feet, an alluring sense of tranquility and ease, and phenomenal
balances. The audience, awestruck by her rock-solid, unsupported
arabesques — held as if she were suspended from a wire — gave her a
rousing ovation. And Villanueva, with his bravura leg work, beautiful
lightness, and total clarity, also was an ideal partner for her.
The splendid partnership between Victoria Jaiani
and Fabrice Calmels is well established by now, and they danced with
great elegance — amid a copious snow fall — as the Snow Queen and King.
In addition, Jaiani, whose slender body can curl like an ornate,
seductive arabesque, was all exotic allure as Coffee from Arabia,
partnered by Miguel Angel Blanco. (The other Sweets variations also were
Ricardo Santos, the young Brazilian-bred dancer
and a winner of several international medals, made a strong impression —
first as Fritz, the bratty, impulsive brother of Clara (the spirited
Anastacia Holden), and then as the high-speed leaping and spinning Snow
Prince. Caitlin Meighan, Aaron Rogers, Allison Walsh and Derrick
Agnoletti were first-rate Mechanical Dolls, and Michael Smith was a
terrific King of the Mice, with the whole battle scene a hoot. atthew
Adamczyk brought great flair and authority to the role of Dr.
Drosselmeyer, godfather to Clara and Fritz and master magician of
Christmas fantasies. The Waltz of the Flowers (Gerald Arpino’s
choreography) was in full bloom with exquisite dancing by the women. And
the gaggle of children who must do a great deal of demanding dancing
and acting did both with skill and naturalness.
One final note: This is a city where
even the most superb performers often seem embarrassed about taking
bows. But this time around the Joffrey fully relished its many fully
deserved curtain calls.
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