One cold, early evening in December at an historical location in Manhattan, there occurred an unlikely, yet pre-planned meeting among a VP/General Counsel of Saks, a liver transplant surgeon, a Bloomberg salesman, a novelist, an engineer, an SVP/General Counsel of a biotech company and others concerning a matter of great importance to the community . . .
Oh, nuts, you guessed it already. Was it that obvious? It was? You mean Francis Patrelle’sYorkville Nutcracker is getting that predictable? Not hardly, Alice. The only thing predictable about the Yorkville Nutcracker is that it allows New Yorkers to think for a blink that their town is the quaint, charming place it was back in the 1890s when a nice Christmas party at the Gracie Mansion in honor of newly-elected Mayor Strong might have turned into a little girl’s dream fantasy about a broken Nutcracker doll. The only other thing predictable is that what one sees on the stage is a marvelous, if not brilliant collaboration among real townspeople and real dancers – dancers just beginning their dreams, dancers at the height of their dreams, and well, dancers still hanging on to their dreams. Whereas the wonderful Nutcracker production at NYCB belongs to a fair amount of the whole country, the Yorkville Nutcracker belongs to New Yorkers. It is like a Christmas Card to New York with scenes of Central Park, Gracie Mansion, New York Botanical Gardens, and more.
Haglund had a blast at the opening performance. The theater was packed with town folk, New York folk. Everyone was excited. The kids on stage handled themselves like pros – and they were tested – a pointe shoe ribbon became unraveled, a mouse’s shoe flew off, a sombrero cord nearly strangled a little boy, and nerves were a bit unsteady here and there. But the performing was fabulous. Never has Haglund seen three foot tall reindeer move as such a focused team with antlers perfectly aligned. And the Pages from Spain, Persia, China, Russia, Austria, France and the Netherlands – stunning! Since there were at least 71 named parts in this production, it would be difficult to review everyone’s performance; however, everyone contributed mightily and the performances of Teddy Roosevelt, Babcock, and the various Consuls General (and their wives) were priceless.
The professionals of the evening were not to be outdone – especially by performers who barely came up to their knees. The Snow King and Queen, Matthew Prescott and Natalia Boesch, swirled through Patrelle’s not unchallenging choreography confidently and were joined by “Snow Boy” Fernando Duarte who expertly managed the fiendish and fast en dehor pencil turns that we see frequently in Patrelle works. Sabra Perry displayed smooth control over the extended moves of her Arabian solo. Christopher Charles McDaniel as the Lead Spanish dancer in the ensemble was precise and took his energy right to safety’s edge time and time again – an exacting and exciting performance from the young man who is on his way out to the Los Angeles Ballet.
The Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier were NYCB’s Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle. There were some teary eyes in the audience during their first PdD. While the music is so emotional that it can be overwhelming, the lump stuck in Haglund’s throat was from seeing how beautiful Ringer inhabited the notes of the music – never pushing or pulling it to go faster – just enjoying every second that she was within it. There were an ease and a naturalness to her turns and an unwillingness to throw the legs high for the sake of high. The light always seems to look for Ringer’s face, and with good reason: she’s one of the more expressive dancers at NYCB without ever forcing that expression.
Jared Angle had a better night than on opening night at NYCB. His turns a la seconde had 200% more energy and speed to them as did his solo grand allegro. While the black tights and black shoes were more forgiving than the white ones the other night, it’s still apparent that the fronts of those ankles need to be stretched over a lot more if the feet are to look pointed.
Happy 15th Anniversary to the Yorkville Nutcracker, and a Stuart Weitzman ruby Pump Bump Awardfor one and all who performed this evening: