Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Colorado Ballet, Gil Boggs, Marie Belew Wheatley, The Nutcracker
Every time I see a performance by the Colorado Ballet, I think that they cannot get any better, but they always do. The Saturday matinee of The Nutcracker was one of the best performances of the Colorado Ballet, and certainly of The Nutcracker, that I have seen. There are at least two reasons for this: 1) I have never seen every dancer in the Colorado Ballet dance with such obvious joy. That makes a tremendous difference in the performance. Yes, they have exhibited much joy before Saturday afternoon, but Saturday afternoon was truly exceptional. 2) For a variety of reasons, I was unable to see The Nutcracker last year, but I have seen it in the past, and this year, there was so much that seems to be new. This ballet performance could be classified as bright and sunny.
There was a new opening curtain depicting Herr Drosselmeyer’s workshop. This is quite similar to an overture to the ballet, and when this curtain opened to reveal the street outside the Stahlbaum’s house, I am sure that it was a new set. There was also a new set for the living room of the Stahlbaum house, which included a marvelous clock with an owl on top. When the clock chimed the owl flapped its wings and its eyes flashed: spectacular! Some of the costumes seemed new, and some of the wigs seemed new, and I can guarantee you that the spirit was new.
One glance at the program, and it was easy to see the depth of the Colorado Ballet. Some of the dancers, who had secondary roles in the matinee performance, danced lead roles in the evening performance. Dana Benton danced Clara, and Adam Still danced the Nutcracker Prince at the matinee. Sharon Wehner was the Sugarplum, and Viacheslav Buchkovskiy danced the Cavalier. I have long admired these four dancers, but I must tell you that at the matinee, they seemed to demonstrate a newfound energy and pleasure in their dancing ability, and I can guarantee you that it was totally effortless. I will also say that I have never heard the Colorado Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Adam Flatt, sound better, and I know that had to help motivate the dancers. As I have stated in past reviews, conducting a ballet orchestra is quite difficult, because one has to make sure that the dancers are following the conductor, and that the conductor is taking into consideration the individual dancers slightest differences in interpretation.
Once again, in looking at the program, it was terrific to see some dancers added to the Corps de Ballet who have moved up through the ranks of this company. This simply means that their dancing ability is appreciated by Maestro Gil Boggs. He has done wonders for this ballet company, and it has improved every single year, and I am quite sure that the dancers appreciate having their effort rewarded.
I cannot stress how different this production was (was the choreography still the same?), even though the Nutcracker is so very familiar. There were so many changes in the small details, such as the aforementioned clock, and in the snow scene, there truly was a lot of snow, so much that it appeared that the dancers were behind a scrim. It truly added to the mood of the scene.
Gregory K. Gonzales, who once again played Herr Drosselmeyer, portrayed him as much kinder and less menacing this year, but still was able to leave the impression that he was an individual best left in a good mood.
The set for Act II was the same as I have seen in previous years, but the towers of candy with their smiling faces made all of the children sitting around us in the audience smile too.
Dmitry Trubchanov, Chandra Kuykendall, Ariel Ha, Morgan Buchanan, Gregory DeSantis, Sean Omandam, Kevin Gaël Thomas, Luis Valdes, Cara Cooper, Christopher Moulton, Jesse Marx, Shelby Dyer, and last but not least, Asuka Sasaki, are just a few of the incredible dancers in this company. And to all of those whose names I did not mention, please accept my humble apologies.
It was also wonderful to see the Sugarplums and the Polichhinelles, who were excellent, be so alive and obviously thrilled at being on stage.
Virtually all of the dancers in the Colorado Ballet share one attribute that I have never seen in any other ballet company: that is the ability to reach out to the audience, not only with their dancing skill, but with their acting skill, as well. They draw one into the performance, and when one leaves the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, one has the feeling of leaving behind some old friends. Since that is shared by every dancer who appears on stage, it not only reflects their skill, but it also reflects the atmosphere and leadership of Maestro Gil Boggs who is the Artistic Director of this organization.
That aspect is also a reflection on the leadership of Executive Director Marie Belew Wheatley, who, in such a very short time seems to have made this a very strong organization. This was an outstanding performance, and I hope that any of you who think that you will not come to see it simply because The Nutcracker is traditional and done every year, will understand that in spite of its familiarity, this is a production that you have to see. The orchestra is one of the finest ballet orchestras in the country – I know that may be strong, but it is true – and the dancers, so astoundingly equal in ability, comprise one of the best ballet companies in the country. And, in a time, when so many organizations seem to be suffering, not only financially, but artistically as well, here is an organization that is solid in its aesthetic footing and solid in its success in bringing to Colorado a true artistic experience.
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