Beatniks’ Review: Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker

Our competition team had the pleasure of attending the Kansas City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker last month at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. While this was many of our dancers’ first experiences with a ballet, they were all very excited to attend what many call a holiday family tradition. Delaney Roberts, when asked what she thought of the ballet, said, “I enjoyed it because it was very different for me. It was funny, beautiful, and entertaining.”

This particular production of The Nutcracker, with its classic composition by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Artistic Director Devon Carney, is a stunning and lavish spin on a classic ballet. This timeless story about a nutcracker come to life is sure to dazzle those who have seen other productions and enchant those who are seeing it for the first time. I asked Lynda Jurado why she felt this experience was an important opportunity for our dancers. She replied, “I think it’s important for the girls to see professional dancers so they can see proper technique and what hard work and dedication can turn into. Also, it gives them a glimpse of a career choice if they want to take their dance to a higher level.”

A nod must be given to the set designer, Alain Vaes. Aesthetically, this production was captivating. From the  iconic moment where the family Christmas Tree begins to engulf the stage and furniture becomes larger than life as mice appear with silverware as battle instruments, you are hooked and suddenly feel that you are a part of this magical world. Another visually stunning moment occurs at the end of act one. As Clara is whisked away to the Kingdom of Snow, a dreamlike sleigh arrives as snowflakes dance and fall while an assembly of beautiful ballerinas perform an exquisitely timed routine. The scene ends with Clara and The Nutcracker Prince boarding a magical hot air balloon. In a moment that many of our families commented later to have enjoyed, they are whisked up into the sky and sail away. A brilliant way to end act one and keep us on the edge of our seats as we wait for act two.

As the second act begins, we are transported to the Land of Sweets. Once again, Vaes outdoes himself in set design and overall aesthetics. He creates a magical world of color, light, and mystery. However, if a critical word is to be said of this production, it would perhaps fit here. While the pas de deux gracefully brought to us by dancers Tempe Ostergren (The Sugar Plum Fairy) and Michael Davis was stunning, at times it may have seemed a bit long and redundant. Regardless of how effortless and weightless Ostergren’s fouettes were, I only care to see them so many times before I wonder what else she’s got up her beautifully laced sleeves. Luckily, Molly Wagner (The Arabain Woman) is mesmerizing to watch, and along with Humberto Rivera Blanco, Liang Fu, Angelin Carrant, and Sasha Chernjavsky, delivers an Arabian dance that certainly lives up to the number’s reputation for featuring stunning flexibility and impressive lifts.

We must also take a moment to appreciate the talent in Poppy Trettel, who played the sweet and innocent Clara.  Trettel holds her own as she dances around with the grown-ups at the party, or with her Prince in the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets. She was lovely to watch and I’d like to think some of our dancers watched with dreamy eyes as they imagined what it would be like to dance on that beautiful stage just like she did. Carlie Hollandsworth had this to say of her experience, “It was an amazing performance, and everything about it was magical and inspiring.” She went on to say, “I loved the reindeer and the fancy jumps! It truly was amazing!”

From the first thrill-inducing note to the final beat of the grand-finale, The Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a visual feast for the eyes, with magical set design, exquisite talent, and beautiful choreography and musicality. I am so happy to have had the chance to share this wonderful experience with our competition team dancers and their families. Who knows, maybe we have a future Sugar Plum Fairy among us, just waiting to take the stage and take our breath away.

 

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