By Ryan Mikel, Contributing Writer
In a city dominated by a multitude of holiday spectaculars, one in particular rises — or shall I say, grand jetés, above the rest. George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” shimmers in spun sugar at the David H. Koch Theater. Beaming with a 40-feet-tall Christmas tree, a snowstorm of charismatic dancers, and a buffet of world-class choreography, New York City Ballet does not disappoint.
As the curtain rises, the audience is invited to the Stahlbaum family’s annual Christmas party. Restless hero Fritz and heroine Marie entertain the audience with a game of cat-and-mouse while family and guests arrive. The fun begins upon the arrival of Herr Drosselmeier and his dolls. Executing razor sharp choreography, Emma Von Enck and Clara Ruf-Maldonado bring life to his dolls, Harlequin and Columbine. Giovanni Villalobos follows as a toy soldier, dancing classical steps with a militaristic flare. Last but not least, the coveted Nutcracker is introduced and given to Marie.
After the party ends, the production comes to an exhilarating climax when Marie awakens to find herself shrinking and everything around her growing. With the tree towering infinitely overhead, Fritz’s toy soldiers and Marie’s Nutcracker come to life to fight the mice that have come to “play.” Marie and company display great artistry and discipline for their age when performing this battle scene. Concluding in a victory for Marie and her prince, the two are swept away by a blizzard of pointe shoes and tulle. Sending absolute chills, 16 fierce snowflakes dance Balanchine’s choreography of high développés, traveling hops, and soaring jetés all while 40 pounds of artificial snow is released above to create a snowstorm effect. As the curtain for Act 1 closes, Marie and her prince are seen nearing the luscious Land of Sweets.
Opening Act 2, Sterling Hyltin as the Sugar Plum Fairy dances her variation to the famous score heard in almost every holiday commercial. Marie and the Nutcracker prince soon arrive and are rewarded for their bravery. The two are treated to an evening of dancers and delicacies from around the world: hot chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, tea from China, candy canes and marzipan. Every eye was on soloist Megan Lecrone with her sultry performance as the Arabian temptress. Antonio Carmena followed as tea from China, ending his athletic variation with seven impressive split jumps. A crowd favorite, Daniel Ulbricht owned the stage by jumping through hula-hoops like a Cirque du Soleil performer. The highlight of the evening was by far Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop in the “Waltz of the Flowers.” With her daunting footwork, impeccable balance and control and powerful stage presence, Bouder proves that she is still on top after returning this fall from maternity leave.
Inevitably, all eyes were on Hyltin and her cavalier Andrew Veyette as they closed the show with a grand pas de deux. Filled with never ending pirouettes and promenades, Hyltin and Veyette showed the audience what it takes to be a principal with NYCB.
Being the city’s foremost ballet company, NYCB embodies every facet of its city — fast paced and exuberant. Having seen a multitude of nutcrackers, including Balanchine’s done elsewhere, no company or production compares. With costumes, sets, and choreography dating back to 1954, Mr. B’s production is still as fresh and exciting as opening night. Running until December 31, you won’t want to miss out on this holiday gem!
Email Ryan Mikel at firstname.lastname@example.org.