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The Nutcracker

As the story goes, the Christmas tradition of gift giving began with three mystics (magi) from the East journeying westward to follow a conjunction of stars. As we've seen in Amal and the Night Visitors, these wise guys can be a little goofy. In E.T.A. Hoffman's story, as it has been adapted for The Nutcracker ballet, the magic of Christmas Eve is assigned to Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara Stahlbaum's godfather.

Gregory K. Gonzales as Herr Drosselmeyer and Dana Benton as Clara
Gregory K. Gonzales as Herr Drosselmeyer
and Dana Benton as Clara
Photo: Mike Watson
Drosselmeyer (Gregory K. Gonzales) is a bit goofy as well, as we see in the Colorado Ballet's version. He gets turned around on his way to the party, dances with the toys he creates, hammers Fritz' fingers in the nutcracker, and forgets his top hat on the way out. Yet, he is an entertaining magician who seeks to protect and offer certain life lessons to his god daughter.

When Mikhail Baryshnikov choreographed The Nutcracker ballet for the American Ballet theatre in 1976, he remarked that "This is Drosselmeyer's evening. It is his ballet." In the Colorado Ballet's production, based on choreography by Martin Fredmann (with additional choreography by Sandra Brown, staged by Lorita Travaglia and Sandra Brown), Drosselmeyer doesn't dance, as he does in Baryshnikov's version, but he still runs the show. Gonzales is a joy to watch in this role, mesmerizing us with his masterful pantomime and theatricality.

Dana Benton as Clara and Yosvani Ramos as the Nutcracker Prince
Dana Benton as Clara and
Yosvani Ramos as the Nutcracker Prince
Photo: Mike Watson
On opening night, Dana Benton, now a principal dancer with the company, reprises her role as Clara, with Yosvani Ramos, a new member and a principal dancer with the company. Their chemistry is fluid, they dance beautifully together, and Ramos does a nice job lifting the graceful Benton.

Maria Mosina as the Sugarplum Fairy and Alexei Tyukov as the Cavalier
Maria Mosina as the Sugarplum Fairy
and Alexei Tyukov as the Cavalier
Photo: Mike Watson
There aren't that many places where one can take in a Russian pair dancing to a beautifully rendered live orchestral performance of Tchaikovsky's famous score (conducted by Adam Flatt), but the Ellie Caulkins Opera House is one. Maria Mosina (Sugarplum Fairy), in her 20th year with the company, and Alexei Tyukov (Cavalier), are impeccable during the classic second-act Grand Pas de Deux.

The ballet is filled with stunning scenes, beginning at the end of the first act, when Clara and the Nutcracker Prince visit the Land of Snow, where the ensemble of Snowflakes entertain them, gliding around the stage as the falling snow increases in intensity, until the pair leaves on a sleigh that literally flies away.

Asuka Sasaki as Dew Drop
Asuka Sasaki as Dew Drop
Photo: Mike Watson

The divertissements in the second act show off the depth of the company, beginning with a snappy and sharp Spanish Chocolate (Tracy Jones, Emily Dixon, and Ben Winegar), moving to the seductive and exotic Arabian Coffee (Chandra Kuykendall and Domenico Luciano), and then roaring through the fun crowdpleaser, Chinese Tea (Ariel Breitman), the flirtatious and coquettish Marzipan (Shelby Dyer, Morgan Buchanan, and Francisco Estevez), and the exuberant and showy Russian Candy Canes (Alexandra Pullen, Kevin Gaël Thomas, and Sean Omandam), before winding up with the cute children's dance, the Polichinelles surrounding the comic Mother Ginger (Tyler Rhoads) and the sublime Dew Drop (Asuka Sasaki) and the Flowers.

The scenery, purchased from the San Francisco Ballet (which was the first company in the U.S. to present the full length ballet in 1944) is delightful, beginning with the storybook cover and including a snowy street scene, the Stahlbaum's great room, toy land, the Land of Snow, and the Land of Sweets.

The Colorado Ballet's presentation of The Nutcracker runs through December 27th. To purchase tickets visit ColoradoBallet.org or call 303-837-8888 ext. 2.

Bob Bows



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