After a stressful and extremely delayed ride on the LIRR (which had not fully recovered from the Sunday snow storm), I arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House just in time for the 2pm performance of The Nutcracker.
Giddy with excitement, I took my seat in the gorgeous, but small opera house and waited for the show to start. The first act felt extremely short to me, probably because the dancing was minimal. The sets were outstanding, the costumes were gorgeous (designed by Richard Hudson of the Lion King production), and the pantomime, especially of that of a pesky, yet adorable little white mouse, left the audience chuckling, but I was at a ballet and I wanted dancing.
There were the short pieces of Columbine, Harlequin, Recruit, and Cateen Keeper, and the children performed some “bratty” dances during the party scene but that was about it. The snow scene also occurred in the first act. About 20 ballerinas appeared in glittering silver costumes, as snow that had been occasionally falling from the sky, was finally released. They gracefully almost swallowed up Clara performed by Mikaela Kelly, a student at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis- the official school of American Ballet Theatre and her Nutcracker Boy (played by Theodore Elliman- also a JKO student) before dying.
The real magic- and dancing- appeared in the second act. The Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy had a very plain setting, but it was not necessary to set the scene. Zhong-Jing Fang, who also performed as the nanny, was the extravagant Sugar Plum Fairy. She wore a massive green dress and a huge headdress in true ABT fashion. Though this role is usually seen as an important, and saved for the Prima Ballerina, ABT’s Sugar Plum Fairy was not a dancing role. Instead, her adagio was given to Clara and her beloved Prince to dance to. During the waltz of the flowers, the Flowers wore neon and “fluffy” magenta costumes, and the four male Bees were almost “Lady Gaga-esque”. They wore black lipstick and large black glasses along with their yellow and black stripe (for a better image, please refer to the Paparazzi music video).
The Spanish dance kicked off the celebration of Clara’s heroism (she killed the Mouse King with her shoe in the first act). Their performance was short and sweet, appropriate but didn’t leave me begging for more. Following them was the Arabian dance, where Roddy Doble (who had on makeup to make him look bald, very awkward looking) stole my attention with his powerful dancing which soared through the air. The Russian dance, which is performed to possibly the most famous music of the Nutcracker, consisted of three men who made the audience giggle with their playful quarreling. Ending the cultural sequences was the Chinese dance. It was very cute, and the audience went wild for it though I didn’t see all of the appeal. The nutcracker’s sisters, dressed in green with tiny top hats, were marvelous, and my attention was focused on the always precise Misty Copeland (you can find her staring in a Prince music video, and has her own Blackberry commercial).
Soloist Maria Riccetto who performed as an adult Clara (also known as the Princess) reminded me of why almost every little girl wants to be a ballerina. She gave off a glamorous and graceful vibe as she danced almost weightless on her pointe shoes. There were some incredible lifts throughout her pas de deux with the prince that made my jaw drop. Though her tutu literally became ruffled and stuck into an awkward position during the pas de deux, she did not lose her technique and form for a single moment.
Last but not least, most of my praise goes to soloist Daniil Simkin who played the Prince (an adult version of the Nutcracker). I might be biased, as I have a complete dance crush on this man, but his dancing was simply breath taking. He left me on the edge of my seat with his incredible jumps, spinning around more than 3 times before landing, and his countless pirouettes seemed effortless. Plus, the man does look incredible in tights.
Alexei Ratmansky’s artistic vision of the Nutcracker was definitely modern, but is not the first to veer from the traditional Petipa choreography. Instead of Clara and her Nutcracker growing up, they are instead doubled, and mirrored in older alter-egos. Clara and her nutcracker sit downstage while the Prince and his Princess dance passionately upstage. Mr. Ratmansky took the choregrahpy to a new level, and in my opinion, he nailed it. It was a playful Christmas show that was appropriate for the unusually young ballet audience, but was still serious enough for true ballet fans and technically brilliant. Bravo to American Ballet Theatre for another spectacular performance.