There’s a fresh, new sparkle on The Nutcracker, which Ballet Arizona performs at Symphony Hall through Sunday, December 24.
In its 2017 production, the company uses more than 100,000 Swarovski crystals in the snow scene that closes out the first act. But that’s not the only reason the opening night performance on Friday, December 8, glistened.
The show was a magical intersection of ebullient dance, playful yet precise choreography, and ethereal design elements. Live music heightened the sensory experience this year, and smart casting helped the production feel fresh.
Ballet Arizona has been performing The Nutcracker, which originated in Russia during the late 19th century, since the company was founded in 1986. The current production was choreographed by Ib Andersen, artistic director for Ballet Arizona since 2000.
The Phoenix Symphony plays the score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Timothy Russell conducts the musicians with full flourish, especially during that snow scene when all those crystals get their moment to shine.
Andersen’s take on The Nutcracker feels particularly playful this year, perhaps because the innocence at the heart of the story contrasts so starkly with events that saturate the digital lives of today’s audiences.
The Nutcracker is escapism par excellence, and Andersen plays up its humorous qualities – with mouse warriors that wiggle more than they wage battle against the Nutcracker, relatives who sneak sips directly from champagne bottles, and the like.
This year’s cast spotlights dancers who’ve been with the company for a relatively short period of time. They’re a talented bunch, and it’s refreshing to see not only new faces, but also an increasing coherence in the way these dancers perform together.