Tulsa Ballet's 'The Nutcracker" successfully blends new with familiar
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Monday, December 10, 2012
12/10/12 at 3:43 AM
Tulsa Ballet's first performance of "The Nutcracker" this year was full of new things.
Some of these were planned, such as the ballet's much revised first act, choreographed by Bruce Wells, and the reintroduction of the character of Mother Ginger in act two.
Unfortunately, some of those new things were not planned - specifically, the injuries to several cast members that required a last-minute shuffling of dancers and roles.
And yet, Tulsa Ballet's debut of its new version of "The Nutcracker," presented Saturday afternoon at the Tulsa PAC, can only be called a success on every level.
The revisions to the first act both speed the ballet along and restore to it a more obvious sense of innocence and wonder, Mother Ginger and all her little candy-colored clowns are as crowd-pleasing as they had been in years past, and the company as a whole gave a performance that might best be described merry and bright.
The ballet is still set in 1920s Paris, and uses the sumptuous costumes and sets created for artistic director Marcello Angelini's "Nutcracker," which debuted in 2003. But instead of the action beginning at the Paris Opera House, the new version returns to the traditional set-up of a family Christmas party, with the Drosselmeyer character (played by resident choreographer Ma Cong) an impresario who is bringing his latest entertainment - a pantomime based on "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" - to amuse the family and its guests.
One of the subtle yet significant ways Wells has improved the ballet is to make sure that much of what happens once the character of Marie (Courney Skalnik at this performance) falls asleep is based on things that occur during this party, from the pantomime battle between the Nutcracker (Andres Fiegueroa) and the Mouse King (Jiyan Dai) to the dolls given as presents becoming the characters of the second act divertissements.
It gives the ballet a greater sense of cohesion, of it being all of a piece. Also, the dancers in the new party scene are younger than those who were part of the old dance studio scene, which only enhances the feeling of childhood and innocence. They perform well, but there is still a kind of unfinished quality to their dancing - in other words, they are truly children.
Principal dancer Alfonso Martin sustained an injury just prior to Saturday's performance, and those familiar with the explosive power he usually displays in his opening solo noticed that Martin was not pushing himself as he has in years past. Yet he was able to complete the performance, and his work in the second act, partnering Madalina Stoica as the adult Marie, was up to his usual standard.
Stoica, making her debut in the role, demonstrated a fine command of classical technique and a willowy grace that made every step and movement seems organic and effortless.
Jiyan Dai, who took over the Mouse King role, acquitted himself well in the battle scene while dealing for the first time with the costume's mask amidst dozens of scampering children, and Alexandra Bergman danced the lead parts of the Snow scene and the Waltz of the Flowers with her customary cheery brio.
Shu Kinouchi danced a rousing Russian; Figueroa, Beatrice Sebelin, Gabriela Gonzalez and Rodrigo Hermesmeyer cavorted in the Spanish dance; Ruslan Hukhambetkaliyev and Jose Antonio Checa Romero battled through the Chinese; while Diana Gomez flowed sensuously among Joshua Slayton, Hugo Mbeng and Andrew Silks in the Arabian.
Georgia Snoke and Dan McGeehan reprised their comic dance, this time as the Head Maid and the Butler, but the humor had more punch to it when their characters' relationship was more antagonistic than romantic.
Christy Martin and Silas Campos formed Mother Ginger, with Brittney Felt and Cavin Conley as Harlequin and Columbine, her attendants.
Conductor Peter Stafford Wilson led the Tulsa Symphony in a performance of the Tchaikovsky score that was bright and sparkling. The tempo was brisk, the articulations crisp and the orchestra's sound was remarkably rich.
"The Nutcracker" continues with performances at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 22, and at 2 p.m. Dec. 16 and 23. For tickets: 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix.
Original Print Headline: 'Nutcracker' successfully blends new with familiar
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
The Tulsa Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" continues through Dec. 23 at the Tulsa PAC. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World