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Tell Tchaikovsky the News: Of Mice and Children

Ed Rampell: The Miami City Ballet version, with choreography by the renowned George Balanchine and the Russian composer’s melodic score performed by a live orchestra, remains ideal for the Christmas season for children of all ages.
Nutcracker

THE NUTCRACKER Ballet Review

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s narrative ballet The Nutcracker, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s children’s story about magical mice, sugarplum fairies, toy soldiers and dolls that come to life, is a perennial holiday favorite. The Miami City Ballet version, with choreography by the renowned George Balanchine and the Russian composer’s melodic score performed by a live orchestra, remains ideal for the Christmas season for children of all ages.

As youngsters gathered around the Stahlbaums’ lavishly decorated Christmas tree for yuletide greetings in Scene 1, Act I, the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was filled with projections designed by Wendall K. Harrington. The graphics continued throughout Scene 2’s childlike dreamland of a fantastical battle between the gigantic Mouse King, a Nutcracker that comes alive and their minions. During the third scene’s lovely winter wonderland sequence it seemed like it was snowing onstage.

Alas, it was an illusion conjured by Ms. Harrington, as no snowplows were required to clear the aisles of the Dorothy Chandler during the intermission. With far fewer graphics, Act II focused on the stellar acrobatic dancing that made Balanchine’s choreo shine. Tchaikovsky’s music is even merrier, livelier during the second act where ballerinas straight out of Degas pastels defied gravity. Miami City Ballet’s dancers were literally on point during much of their breathtaking performance, which reveled in the sheer splendor of the male and female form, and the marvels humans unbound can render.

Nutcracker

Isabel Toledo’s costumes enhanced the hoofers’ supple grace and physiques, plus the ballet’s fairy tale-like ethereal, dreamy quality throughout. Like Miami its City Ballet has an international composition, including Cubans, Brazilians, Mexicans, Europeans and of course Americans. They were joined onstage by young Angeleno artistes of the Colburn School, the Gabriella Foundation’s Everybody Dance! Program and L.A. Children’s Chorus, who helped fill the hall with sonorous sounds.

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How sad that the composer of this transcendent frolic had to suffer because of his sexual preference in a sMother Russia that remains intolerant of gays. It’s tragic that Tchaikovsky, who continues to give lovers of fine music so much joy, was denied the happiness he bestowed upon others in such abundance and was forced to hide in a czarist closet.

Nutcracker

Nevertheless, based on this splendid rendition, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is still the gateway drug to ballet for children. Suites for the sweet!

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker was presented Dec. 7-10 by Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Upcoming Glorya Kaufman Presents DanceEngagements at The Music Center:

  • Romeo and Juliet, March 9-17, 2018;
  • Complexions Contemporary Ballet, April 20-22, 2018;
  • La Bayadère, July 13-15.

Ed Rampell