ECLECTIC ARTS

ECLECTIC ARTS

Monday, November 26, 2018

George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" - PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET Seattle, WA 11/24/18



PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET


George Balanchine’s


THE NUTCRACKER


Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers and PNB School students in the finale of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 23 – December 28, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.



Greetings,



If you’re like me, the start of the Christmas holiday season starts the moment you leave your Thanksgiving destination, not a moment before. So I found myself starting my holiday season with the Pacific Northwest Ballet presenting George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”. The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker’ has become a holiday tradition for many in the Northwest. The Kent Stowell and Maurice Sendak version delighted audiences for 32 years. The George Balanchine version debuted in 2015 and is the current production at McCaw Hall.



As I arrived on Saturday afternoon, the lobby of McCaw Hall was filled with decorative displays. A giant tree greets you as you enter the north entrance followed by many a display for photographic opportunities.



Families were dressed in their Sunday best or perhaps that should be holiday best. Children that looked like they stepped out from a holiday film from yesteryear with their parents equally dashing. It is recommended to dress to your comfort level of appropriateness. There are patrons in more casual clothing (jeans for example) and the Pacific Northwest Ballet has always been clear to not let your dress prevent you from attending a performance. So, dress, or lack thereof, is no excuse. Enjoy a performance if you can.



Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Elizabeth Murphy as the Sugar Plum Fairy, with PNB School students in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by children’s author and illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig) and runs November 23 – December 28, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.



I have fond memories of the Stowell and Sendak version but it had been many years since I had seen it, as well as my friend who accompanied me. I was excited to see what the George Balanchine version offered up to the holiday audience.



Conductor Allan Dameron led the PNB Symphony through Tchaikovsky’s well known score as the production began Act I.



The screens unveiled a video to transport the audience into little Clara’s world of the enchanted. She arrives on stage at her home with her parents, guests, and their children. The sets were lavish and dimensionally appropriate.



Herr Drosselmeir (Ezra Thomson) arrives and the story begins to unfold.



The mice, the soldiers, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King all dance and battle to one victorious outcome. Clara’s imagination/dreams sees the Christmas tree grow so high that the golden angel on top of it can’t be seen. The Nutcracker walks with Clara into a magical forest where he turns into a Prince. They follow a mesmerizing star to a land faraway.



Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 23 – December 28, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.



Act II starts with The Sugar Plum Fairy (Elizabeth Murphy) greeting Clara and the Prince. She has many sights to show them. Dancers from Spain, Arabia, China, Russia, France, and Germany to name a few.



A typically scene stealing performance by the Dewdrop (Sarah Ricard Orza) was a highlight of the second act. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Jerome Tisserand) was the other.



Clara and the Prince leave the exotic world of the Sugar Plum Fairy behind as they lift off in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.



Overall, I found the performance amazing. The first act went by so quickly that when intermission came, I said to myself, “already?” The sets and the performers were a joy to watch. The young cast were always a large component during the first act. I don’t remember as many young cast members in the second act in the Stowell and Sendak version but I could be wrong.



Of course the ballet in the second act really turns up several notches which is what many come to enjoy. If you’re not well versed in the world of ballet (like myself), I think you’ll find yourself mesmerized by the performances. When done “right”, it’s like watching liquid move. It’s that seamless.



This version had eye popping visuals from Ian Falconer (scenic and costume design) as well as the magnificent lighting design by James F. Ingalls.




Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in the snow scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 23 – December 28, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.



If you’re reading this and you’ve never been to a performance of “The Nutcracker” by the Pacific Northwest Ballet, it is absolutely worth seeing at least once. Go in with an open mind and let the talented cast and crew take you away to a magical place you’ll not soon forget.



If you’re a regular “Nutcracker” aficionado who looks forward to the PNB production each holiday season, you will not be disappointed.



We are spoiled here in Seattle to have such an amazing company like the Pacific Northwest Ballet putting on such timeless productions like George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”. Don’t take it for granted. Go see a performance this holiday season!



Happy Holidays,

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Special thanks: Gary for the opportunity. I sincerely appreciate it. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity in 2019.





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