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Nutcracker in Pastels for a Florida Christmas

Palm Beach
Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
12/28/2022 -  & December 16‑24 (Miami), 29*, 30 (West Palm Beach), 2022
The Nutcracker
George Balanchine (choreography), Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (music)
Miami City Ballet Orchestra, Gary Sheldon (conductor)
Miami City Ballet Soloists & Corps de Ballet
Ruben Toledo (sets), Isabel Toledo (costumes), Wendall K. Harrington (projections), James F. Ingalls (lighting)

Composed in 1892, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was adapted the German Romantic writer E. T. A. Hoffmann’s 1816 story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” as retold by Alexandre Dumas. On Christmas Eve, a magic nutcracker takes a tree trimming party in a supernatural direction. In the process it reveals a boy price to Marie, the daughter of the family, who defends it from an invasion of mice. Transported to the prince’s magical Land of Sweets, it is guarded by the Sugar Plum Fairy and receives tribute from far‑flung, if often clichéd, parts of the world. In the end, Marie and the Prince rise to rule the kingdom.

Tchaikovsky’s ballet was poorly received by Russian critics, who objected to its whimsical plot and ensemble work, which left little room for solo dancers. The prima ballerina is absent until the second act. Soviet communists had no time for a ballet set at Christmas. An orchestral suite enjoyed some popularity, but as a stage production it only took off in America in the 1940s. Even culture‑free Americans readily recognize its melodies. The New York City Ballet staged it in a production by the Russian‑trained Georgian dancer and choreographer George Balanchine in 1954 and has reprised it in every season except for when it closed during the Covid‑19 pandemic (there were still some cancellations in 2021).

Estimates hold that 40 percent of annual American ballet revenue derives from The Nutcracker, effectively underwriting all other ballet productions. Miami City Ballet, arguably North America’s finest dance company, duly features it every season, in Balanchine’s choreography with storybook sets by Ruben Toledo and costumes by Toledo’s late wife Isabel, both nationally-recognized Cuban‑American designers who teamed up for the project in 2017. The production this year was dedicated to the memory of Isabel, who died in 2019.

This year’s revival was presented in Miami and in West Palm Beach, as are all MCB productions. Bright and vivaciously danced, the first Palm Beach performances drew near sell‑out crowds with many children dressed in fairy tale style for the occasion.

The Nutcracker requires a cast of over one hundred dancers. Miami City Ballet delivered a splendid performance. Among the soloists, Dawn Atkins made a stunning role debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy, giving a new definition of balance as she dominated the stage. Her cavalier, Stanislav Olshanskyi, a Ukrainian dancer who entered the troupe this year, accompanied her with perfect coordination and muscular sweeps in his role debut. The young couple parts – Marie and the Prince – showcased the talents of Carolina Rodriguez and Diogenes Bonilla Escobar. Gary Sheldon led a solid performance of holiday sounds.

Paul du Quenoy



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