From the opening Christmas party scene to the magnificent pas de deux of Act II, danced by the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier, the recent performances of The Nutcracker by the Coasting Along Theatre Society were an artistic and technical success.
The young cast of local dancers put their hearts and souls into putting before an audience what they had been rehearsing every weekend since mid-September, and they can be very proud of their achievement.
In the first act, who could not chuckle at Fritz (Halle Holmes) and Drosselmeyer's (John Conway) eye-to-eye challenge, or the mice stretcher bearers confidently marching off the stage with the Mouse King (Jarrett Carlington) still lying on the stage floor. Who could not be impressed as Herr Drosselmeyer entertained the party guests with his juggling and dancing dolls, the Jester, the Ballerina and the Harlequin, ably performed by Wyatt Henley, Jaime Butler and Kristie Sita.
The role of Clara was danced superbly by Brontë Hansen, whose infectious smile and strong acting kept our attention throughout. In the exciting confrontation between the Mouse King with his host of little mice and the Nutcracker Prince (Luke Hanson) with his marching soldiers, Clara saves her Prince, the Nutcracker springs to life, and we enter an enchanting dream world, Clara's dream world.
The costumes were colourful and tasteful and nowhere was this more evident than in Act I, Scene III where we were transported to the Land of Snow. The blue and white designs in the scenery were echoed in the blues and silvers in the costumes.
Kudos to Cody Chancellor for the set designs and art work and to Conchita Harding for the costume designs and the many hours of assembly.
In this Land of Snow, the Snow King and his Queen, danced by Diego Ramalho and Ana Paula Oioli, gave us an exquisite pas de deux accompanied by swirling dancing snowflakes. As "real" snowflakes floated down on the dancers, we were presented with an ethereal picture of a perfect winter scene.
In Act II, Clara and Drosselmeyer are transported to the Land of Sweets, and a series of dances representing different nationalities.
The curtain opens on six little angels seeming to float effortlessly around the stage in a realistic ground cover of cloud. Two red-clad Spanish dancers (Elizabeth Waite and Lily Riggs) gave us a lively fandango, followed by a slow, sinuous Arabian dance (led by Courtney Hobson) and then a pair of ribbon-wielding dancers (Cora Nelson and Evangeline Larson) symbolizing China. Two somewhat inebriated Russians (Luke Hanson and Jarrett Carlington) doing a lively trepak and some highly amusing tumbling were followed by the Mirlitons, a trio with a lucky male dancer (Diego Ramalho) and two lovely companions (Jamie Butler and Stephanie Millican). He successfully satisfied both dancers with some expert partnering.
A hit of the show was Mother Ginger and her Pulchinelles. The imposing stilt dancer, Pan Willson, herded the young brood through some tumbling manoeuvres after which they gracefully exited by sliding between a pair of outsized legs.
One of the most memorable bits of music from The Nutcracker is surely the Waltz of the Flowers. Here this music accompanied some delicate, elegant dancing. The Dew Drop Fairy, danced by Ana Paula Oioli in her second role, added some stylish solo steps.
The high point of the ballet is the pas de deux of the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier, danced by Emilie Siqueira and Miguel Nguyen. They gave us moments of exquisite partnering along with spectacular solo work, a beautiful moment well worth anticipating.
The production was in the hands of the company's artistic director, Kathleen Holmes. From the recruitment of an enthusiastic team of volunteers to the many hours of rehearsals that brought the dancers to their high level of artistry, Holmes deserves the highest accolades.
If you missed the performances, mark your calendars now for the 2014 version. The Nutcracker is a holiday staple for young and old and indeed adds a magical touch to Christmas.
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