Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nutcracker Wars Part 1: Miami Begins the Battle

These small children (or this year's small children, rather) are serious professionals (at pretending to have a great time) 

I never understand why so many balletomanes are scornful of the December Nutcracker season. From my standpoint, it means every ballet company is performing full stop, so there are lots of opportunities to see all my favorite dancers. They’re performing a work with one of the best scores ever written for the ballet. Add to that the fact that I love comparing multiple versions of the same ballet, and it’s like Christmas! Well, it is Christmas, but you know what I mean.

Anyways, this year we begin NUTCRACKER WARS. After all the entries (three this year) I will be giving awards in all the divisions (best snowflakes, best costumes, silliest children's performances, etc).

The first foray in Nutcracker Wars this year is from the Miami City Ballet’s first performance of the year at the Arsht Performing Arts Center. I’ve reviewed the production before, and there’s nothing new there - same costumes, same amazing choreography. Same pesky lack of a live orchestra - which this evening was very annoying when a soloists needed some extra time for the ending of the variation, which the recording, probably produced for listening and not dancing, didn’t give her.

The performances, however, really deserve praise. The soloists are almost uniformly on their game (with an especially bubbly and muscular rendition of the lead candy cane by Shimon Ito). Even more surprising - the lead children were dancing at a near professional level, especially the young Marie, performed by Rachel Armengol, whose grace and poise onstage may one day be taking her to a real career in dance. Autumn Rodrigue pantomimed marvelously through mischevious Fritz’s comedic bits, trying to get the girls to dance with him, pulling his sister’s dress, constantly self-absorbed but somewhat adorable nevertheless. 

But the real story is how excellent the corps is performing - everything is impossibly crisp, perfectly in time, moving with the music like a dream. The big story regarding the MCB this year is the introduction of Lourdes Lopez as artistic director.  I haven't seen the regular season, but this production is a triumph. Long may Lopez reign in Miami.

Miami City Ballet, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, December 19, 2013, Composer: Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, Choreographer: George Balanchine, Sugar Plum Fairy: Jennifer Carilyn Kronenberg, Cavalier: Carlos Miguel Guerra, Marie: Rachel Armengol, Nutcracker: Cyrus Shaskan, Drosselmeier: Didier Bramaz

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