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Symphony Hall
12/10/2010 -  & December 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 2010
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Op. 71
Astrit Zejnati (Herr Drosselmeyer), Gabriella Domini (Clara), Marcus Murphy (Hans-Peter), Kanako Imayoshi (Frau von Stahlbaum), Sergei Perkovskii (Herr von Stahlbaum), Ginger Smith (Grandmother), Roman Zavarov (Grandfather), Natalia Magnicaballi (Sugar Plum Fairy), Ilir Shtylla (Prince), Paola Hartley (Drew Drop),Tzu-Chia Huang (Snow Queen), Shea Johnson (Snow King), and the Arizona corps de ballet
Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Timothy Russell (conductor)
Ib Andersen (Choreography), Carey Wong and Ib Andersen (Set Designers), Fabio Toblini (Costumes Designer), Michael Korsch (Lights Designer)

(© Rosalie O'Connor/courtesy of Ballet Arizona)

Phoenix might not be the city that first comes to mind for Christmas scenes, with two feet of snow, frozen lakes, and temperatures below zero. Here, in the desert, Santa Claus is dressed in traditional red, but he wears a straw hat, a poinsettia shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. And no "open sleigh dashing through the snow": Santa drives a silver convertible Corvette with the top down.

This is precisely why this thrilling Ballet Arizona production of The Nutcracker gives the cacti pleasant goosebumps, and the audience as well.

Choreographer Ib Andersen enjoys an outstanding reputation in the balletic microcosm and beyond. A former principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet, Andersen joined the New York City Ballet and was one of the last star dancers to have worked with George Balanchine (then director of NYCB) who created for him some of his masterpieces. Now retired from dancing, Andersen has been at the helm of Ballet Arizona for ten years.

His staging of The Nutcracker transports us to a scintillating Winter Wonderland of fantasy and poetry. No ToysRUs combat zones, here. Just plain, all-age innocence, bathed in the brilliance of a vintage German Christmas, a classical choreography, and sugar-packed sets and costumes.

Some numbers particularly stand out in this production: the delightful gallop of the children, deftly danced by the students of the School of Ballet Arizona, and a sparkling Waltz of the Snowflakes in Act 1. Act 2 seduces with the Divertissement - specifically the Russian Dance and the Dance of the Mirlitons -, the Waltz of the Flowers, and the pas de deux, followed by the two variations, with Natalia Magnicaballi (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Ilir Shtylla (Prince). The technique is spotless and the pair's rendition of this number is well above average. Shtylla's porté's are secure and firm, while Magnicaballi's arabesques and attitudes are above reproach. Sergei Perkovskii in Drosselmeyer is excellent in the part of the mysterious, flamboyant magician and toy-maker.

(© Rosalie O'Connor/courtesy of Ballet Arizona)

Arizona corps de ballet and soloists put up a creditable performance, and if this Nutcracker can not compete with productions by the Royal Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, or the Ballet national de l'Opéra de Paris, it is essentially a matter of budget, not of dancing talent. The overall impression is that of accomplished dancers who superbly navigate through the intricacies of the choreography: lines are remarkably straight, fluid, and cookie-cut in ensembles, with perfect spacing between dancers, and unashamed coordination of movements.

Under the baton of Timothy Russell, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra does not steal the show but delivers a more than honest performance.

With this spirited production of The Nutcracker, Ballet Arizona brightly lights up the holiday season and launches December's jubilant festivities with spectacular gusto.

Thumbs up!

The website of Ballet Arizona
The School of Ballet Arizona

Christian Dalzon



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