Let the snowflakes dance! Let them out so they can flit and flutter delicate as the wind pushes and pulls. Let them reign free moving about the stage delighting, enchanting.
It is no secret that Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker is a Christmas classic. Young and old people enter theaters around the world to have their and ears and eyes filled with sugar plum joy. In this case, I am just like the masses.
I think I was about 6 or 7 the first time I went to see The Nutcracker. My grandmother got my sister and I new outfits and toted us off to the Majestic Theater to watch, what I now sentiment as the beginning of Christmas. From that year forward it became tradition. Whether it be a professional ballet troupe or a variation at a local university, we saw the gambit. This ballet became a unifying presence within the matriarch of my family.
My YiaYia would pick us up and the adventures of Christmas would begin. This outing taught us grace, etiquette and how to properly enjoy ballet. YiaYia would purchase tickets year after year in varying locations within the theater so we could discuss and compare views, quality of sound and overall experience. We became self-proclaimed scenery and costume critics. It was the maker of memories I cherish.
As you know, ballet should not be viewed too close, otherwise, the delicate snowflakes and flowers land thud. With press tickets this year, we were a tad close and had a few of those moments. When you purchase tickets, a recommendation would be to sit center orchestra towards the back or center front mezzanine. From here, you will have wonderful views free from any notion that these dancers are actually people with weight. They will just gloss across the floor, leaping into the air as if defying gravity. (Sean Omandam and Kevin Gaël Thomas did exactly this during the Russian Candy Cane dance. Full body splits mid-air and multiple times. They were a true highlight.)
From a purely aesthetic point-of-view, the snowflake and flower costumes of the chorus were spot-on. Jose Varona did a spectacular job. The precision and delicacy coupled with the blended talent of the dancers had you believing these snowflakes were real and moving. The dance of the flowers proved similar and truly enchanting.
The set was heavy on tapestry and felt confined in Act I with stairs and wooden accents for the Stahlbaum home. It then lifted and opened as the journey moved to the Kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Had I seen last night's performance with my YiaYia, who is now 86 and lives in a different state, we would have had a post-performance checklist commentary. It would have included the following: did we like Clara, how were the costumes, did the set meet our expectations, did Sugar Plum enchant?
Hoping she will read this, I will respond with the following: Clara did well. The costumes, as mentioned, were wonderful. The set met expectations with the dance of the snowflakes turning into a true wonderland fantasy. Sugar Plum maintained precision and form. The show stoppers though were the snowflakes and flowers. The Colorado Ballet chorus was a hit! Coming in a close tie for second would be the Russian Candy Canes and the Marzipan.
Were I to ask a child in the audience his/her favorite part, I think is might have been the rats. The rats were large and plush, complimenting their jovial movements and play with the audience. There were actually quite a few tender and comical moments in this year's variation from the opening with the 2013 Sugar Plums to the Chinese Tea Dragon riding off with its dancer. The amount of laughter and smiles exploding throughout the performance makes it one to recommend.
There may not be much snow on the ground right now, but the snowflakes inside the theater were awe-inspiring. Grab your child, niece, nephew, grandchild, a neighbor's child and go see Chrismas live. The joy of dance and the joy of the holidays is one to be shared. My hope is that this experience will cause the same kind of giddiness and fond leap down memory lane for others years to come.
All photo credits to Mike Watson.