Joffrey ‘Nutcracker’ a stunning opening.
A review by Sue Langenberg.
Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet opened “The Nutcracker” yesterday evening at the Auditorium Theatre to a nearly full house. The historic theatre sparkled, the orchestra tuned up and musical director Scott Speck raised his baton as the magic began.
The ballet company proudly dedicated the 2011-12 season to beloved Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley, a cultural inspiration to all the arts of Chicago.
Opening night for Joffrey is always very special with much anticipation to experience the best of the best. The production did not disappoint.
In her second season with Joffrey, Venezualian-born Yumelia Garcia has danced a meteor-like rise to star status, though the company has always considered itself not in the standard star system. Garcia, however, opened the ‘Nutcracker’ season as Sugar Plum Fairy with special status. With all the marvelous and accomplished dancers within the company, she exudes a unique stage presence before she even takes a step. When the steps begin, she is clearly about superior technique with balances in the Grand Pas de Duex that seem to get longer each year with easily executed pirouettes, petite allegro and presentation. About her exceptional epaulement (shouldering), and fluid port de bras (carriage of the arms) she credits a certain performance instinct as well as good training.
Nutcracker Prince Ogulcan Borova showcased Garcia with smooth partnering skills as well as himself in his clear double cabrioles and clean double tour finishes.
About epaulement and port de bras, the entire company shone as if to usher a new era in the dance world that lauds the artistry of performance, rather than a seemingly shallow emphasis on super technique, empty and ghostly like the past decades had experienced. These dancers are clearly about a stellar representation of where the ballet should be.
The Snow scene was exquisite in its ongoing celebration of Peter Tchaikovsky’s visionary composition of dancer flakes that sparkle at every entrance and exit. One only needs to dream of all that swirls and twirls in the air as if snow was made for the ballet. Snow King Dylan Gutierrez and Snow Queen Victoria Jaiani did stellar pas de deux work as well as left turner Snow Prince Derrick Agnoletti. A fit touch to the scene was the angelic Pro Musica Youth Chorus in the pit with orchestra. The Oak Park group also sang cheerful holiday selections in the lobby.
Second Act divertissments took the Kingdom of Sweets to an array of cultures that showcased special talents within the company. Chocolate of Spain Erica Lynette Edwards was saucy in her presentation, returning Jaiani with Dylan Gutierrez oozy and agile in Coffee from Arabia, Tea from China dancers Katherine Minor, Anastacia Holden and returning Agnoletti were bursting with bouncing ballon and Marzipan Shepherdesses Elizabeth Hansen, Caitlin Meighan and Jacqueline Moscicke were precise in their sweetness.
Waltz of the Flowers, familiar to all as a piece to linger in one’s memory, the dancers graced the stage, bloomed and performed with technical flair with special note to regal April Daly as Pansy and Cavaliers Graham Maverick, Michael Smith, Temur Suluashvili and Shane Urton – the ultimate luxury to cast such marvelous male dancers.
About Tchaikovsky’s Second Act score, Joffrey seems to have taken a slight detour that may or may not be appreciated by the 19th century composer. The transitions between divertissements borrowed some Dr. Drosselmeyer (Matthew Adamczyk) measures from the First Act as a segue. While it is understandable that the Second Act stop and start sections contrast the fluidity the Victorian First Act and Snow Scene, the spliced transitions seem out of context as the divertissements are starkly unrelated and even jolt one into seemingly a different musical key. Some things are better left alone, even when the classics provide flexibility.
Sue Langenberg writes the “Hot Flashes” column, reviews the arts and is author of “Hot Flashes, 101 Reasons to Laugh at Life.”