There's one word that sums up Robert Joffrey's "The Nutcracker," and it's not a bad one for the season: warmth.
Now 23 years old, the Joffrey Ballet's
version, on view through Dec. 26 at the Auditorium Theatre, may not be
as spectacular as some. But it has a glow in every choice and detail, in
just about every moment, for that matter, from Oliver Smith's Americana
setting to the creamy, cottony, pastel costumes that appear at times to
be edible. After nearly a quarter of a century, this "Nutcracker" isn't
always as keen as in its earlier days. But the revival unveiled Friday
seemed a tad sharper than the performance at last year's opening,
certainly a welcome holiday treat as scrumptious as any full-length
ballet you're likely to encounter year-round.
One joy stemmed from the casting of Yumelia Garcia as opening night
Sugar Plum Fairy, bringing a different presence and spirit to this
critical role. She's a strong and in some ways more grounded ballerina
at times, until, for instance, she lifts her arms upward in a way that
suggests they're not so much moving as afloat. Her form is exact and her
technique clean and assured, somehow a muscular soloist who sacrifices
not a whit of beauty or poise, some of that thanks to her self-effacing
mien and exuberance. Her prolonged balance on one leg is a stunner.
Mauro Villanueva continues his rise as one of the troupe's more striking
men, buoyant and immaculate, a fine Nutcracker Prince. He and Garcia
don't boast much chemistry, at least not yet. But they're what folks in
the 1850s settings of this version might have called a handsome
couple--a sexy partnership to relish and anticipate.
Taking the somewhat less celebrated role of Snow Queen, star ballerina
Victoria Jaiani made it a majestic, silky star turn, leaping backwards
into the arms of able partner Fabrice Calmels as if she can literally
fly. Her Act II Coffee from Arabia duet (about the only stretch of this
family ballet that hints at s-e-x) shone with her limber sensuality and
Relative newcomer Ricardo Santos danced Fritz, the Snow Prince and Tea
from China with pure technique and infectious exhilaration, less flashy
than some predecessors, but refreshingly void of their scene-stealing
The Joffrey Ballet's annual holiday production
When: 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays
through Dec. 26; extra performances at 7 p.m. Thursday (12/16), 2 and 7
p.m. Dec. 21, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 22, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 23 and 2 p.m. Dec.
24 (no performances Christmas Day)
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.
Price: $30-$115; CQ 800-982-2787 CQ or ticketmaster.com
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