Choreography by Michael Chernov, Vasili Vainonen,Marius Petipa and Alexandra Lawler
Directed by Gelsey Kirkland and Michael Chernov
Off Off Broadway, Dance
Runs through 12.21.14
Schimmel Center at Pace University
by Jane Sato on 12.16.14
Photo by Luis Pons.
BOTTOM LINE: Gelsey Kirkland's version of this classic children's story showcases the great training at her academy and its serious intent on quality dancing.
There is solid proof of tenacious training and artistry of the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet Academy in the dancing of the students and professionals that have trained under this world famous ballerina of the '70s and '80s, Gelsey Kirkland, and her husband Michael Chernov. The precision and technique of the young dancers is impressive and heartwarming. From the beginning, Satoki Habuchi as Fritz is a lively and expressive young dancer who shows much promise and Kyono-Chantal Morin as his sister Marie lights up the stage with her brilliant and sparkly footwork and lightning quick glissades. I find it disheartening that these two soloist dancers are merely apprentices. Note: the dancers who play Marie and the Nutcracker Prince change at each performance
The party scene passes by with a rambunctious boy’s dance, girls prancing about, and a predictably soothing parent and grandparent’s dance. There is a group of adults miming playing the Tchaikovsky score for us which is very literal, but sweet. A highlight is the Columbine and Harlequin dance with Anderson Souza and Nina Yoshida who really seem as if they are dolls. A flamboyant Drosselmeyer, played by Johnny Almeida hands his niece Marie a nutcracker and then feisty Fritz ends up breaking it. Morin as Marie portrays this coming of age ballet sensitively and earnestly and as she dreams of her Nutcracker prince, he appears just in time to save her from some giant mice who try and attack her.
The people from the land of sweets appear and bring forth the cavalry from a larger-than-life cabinet. They exit the box from a slide and triumphantly overtake the mice and rat king. The smallest, young Charles Klepner, who is the Bugle Boy and object of ransom in the battle steals every scene he is in as dancer and comedic relief as the mice and soldiers fight to save him. The Nutcracker Prince prevails and snowflakes begin to fall. The snow scene begins with ecstatic seamless partnering by Morin and her Prince, Marko Micov. There was no traditional Snow King or Queen, just the two lovers meeting and making their way to the Nutcracker Prince’s kingdom. The Spanish dancers have flair. Souza and Galen Bolard as the Russians kick the second act up a notch with their charisma. The Flutes, a section choreographed by Kirkland herself, is full of fancy footwork and shows the three women hitting high notes with technically challenging hops and short solos. The Chinese dancers and corp are enthusiastic and spritely. My only disappointment is the repetitive choreography of the Waltz of the Flowers. Habuchi stands out in the Waltz of the Flowers and draws attention to his clean lines and presence even in stillness.
Kirkland and Chernov make sure that logic is a part of every piece of this ballet. They also replace the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier with a effervescent duet with Marie and her Prince. The purity of both Morin and Micov shows in their suspended jumps and brisk turns. Their dramatics make it seem as if they really are in love. They have chemistry and the technique to make us feel with our hearts, and not just our eyes. The Gelsey Kirkland Ballet’s production is full of drama and is pushing forward each of their artists in their solo moments. The lavish costumes and sets adopted from the New York Opera push this production value up infinitely. This magical production makes you wish you could see the world from Morin’s starry eyes.
(Gelsey Kirkland Ballet presents The Nutcracker plays at Schimmel Center at Pace University, 3 Spruce Street, from December 11th-21st. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30PM, Saturday at 2PM and 7:30PM and Sunday at 2PM. Tickets are $39-$59 and are available at schimmel.pace.edu or by calling 212.346.1715.)