THE NUTCRACKER (12-23-07) 

By Lawrence Budmen

Like Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’ s ballet The Nutcracker is perennial holiday fare. The irresistible score has served as inspiration for innumerable productions. From Anthony Dowell’s reconstruction of the original Lev Ivanov choreography to George Balanchine’s neoclassical version to Mark Morris’ satirical The Hard Nut, Nutcracker has fired the inspiration of notable creative talents. 

But for sheer enchantment and opulent grandeur, Marie Hale’s extravaganza for Ballet Florida remains a stunning achievement. Hale’ s choreography vividly conveys the narrative of E.T.A. Hoffman’s scenario while remaining true to the romantic sweep and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. She manages to infuse the piece with a miraculous sense of child like wonder. 

This is 19th century ballet writ large – a huge cast, magical special effects, and an extravagant production. H ale and her creative team have recaptured the exciting aura of grandiose spectacles that Leonid Lavrovsky and Yuri Grigorivich created during the heyday of the Bolshoi Ballet. 

In the current run of Ballet Florida’s production at the Kravis Center, several casts alternate dancing the leading roles. At Sunday evening’s performance, Marife Gimenez and Tracy Mozingo were grandly aristocratic as Frau and Herr Silberhaus. Their daughter Clara was appealingly portrayed by Stephanie Rapp who combined glamour and fleet footed precision. The gifted young Mauricio Canete was a magnetic Nutcracker Prince , dancing with soaring line. 

The production reached its zenith in the magical scene in the Land of the Snow, in which the exciting precision of the female corps (as The Snowflakes) was breathtaking. Deborah Marquez was a lustrous Snow Queen, partnered with classic grace and charisma by Jean-Hugues-Feray. A final tableau of the full ensemble amid rapidly falling snow was delightful theatricality personified. 

Act II brought a lively divertissement of character dances. As the Dew Drop and her Cavalier, the elegant Yumelia Garcia and Markus Schaffer (about to retire after more than a decade with the company) were models of classicism and superb partnering, particularly in an exciting Waltz of the Flowers. In the pivotal roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, Tina Martin (who recently performed at the new Bolshoi Theater in Moscow) danced with joyous abandon and airborne lightness while Fernando Moraga was a balletic whirlwind, especially in his solo variation. 

An excellent recorded soundtrack with sensible dance tempos accompanied this colorful holiday fantasy, an evening of sparkling entertainment for children of all ages. 

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