The Grand Rapids Ballet's annual Nutcracker production opened on Friday night for a weekend of top notch performance. People from all over Michigan came to see the classic holiday ballet, traditionally performed in December, which many associate with the countdown to Christmas day. The opening night performance featuring stunning costumes, detailed sets and Grand Rapids Symphony music transported the audience to a Victorian Christmas in Germany where they could witness Clara's magical journey.
Nutcracker Costumes Captured the Era
When the Nutcracker begins, one of the first things the audience notices are the beautiful, historically accurate Victorian costumes that could have come straight off the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. Costumers Clare Gardeski and Melissa Leitch created high quality costumes that flattered the dancer's movements. The variation of colors of different dancers' costumes gave the impression of a painting during many scenes, particularly the party scene at the Stahlbaum residence.
Costumes were all on point to each role and added to the beauty of each dancer's performance. The gorgeous detail some of the wardrobe, such as the costumes of the sugar plum fairy and the snow queen, were works of art.
Detailed Sets and Backdrops Set the Tone
The Grand Rapids Ballet production team led by production stage manager, Mellissa Slack, created elaborate sets and backdrops with just the right combination of detail to help transport the audience to 19th century Germany. The combination of the sets and the props helped set the tone of the scenes without distracting from the dancing.
Special Effects Added Excitement
Younger members of the audience seemed to appreciate the special effects in the Nutcracker production. Sparks fly when Dr. Drosselmeyer repairs the nutcracker doll's arm. The nutcracker emerges from the magical fog for the first time as a living doll at the start of the battle. When canons fire during the battle scene, there is smoke. The snow looks very real in the Land of Snow during the snowflake waltz. Angels dance in the misty clouds. The Grand Rapids production team's special effects were well-executed and spiced up the story.
Well-Choreographed Dances Showcased Dancer Talent
On opening night, the Grand Rapids' Ballet's Nutcracker provided the polished, professional choreography it is known for. Under the direction of artistic director, Patricia Barker, the Grand Rapids creative team choreographed the classic dance numbers in a way the honored Tchaikovsky's original story and music. The dancers danced with exceptional talent and polished technique in solos and corps de ballet performances.
The Grand Pas de Deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Nutcracker Prince, danced by Dawnell Dryja and Stephen Sanford, was a work of beauty and reverence. The pair danced the famous number in perfect sync with emotion and flawless technique that captured the story's special magic.
In Grand Rapids Ballet Nutcracker productions, Grand Rapids Ballet school students have the opportunity to dance alongside the professional company and junior company members. The student dancers were a talented group. The intermingling of professional and student dancers was smooth and well-done. The dancers, both professional and student, danced with joy and feeling.
A Performance to See with the Family
It is no wonder that the Grand Rapids Ballet's Company's Nutcracker production is a tradition for many Michigan families. Anyone who sees this year's performance will certainly leave the theatre feeling the joy of Christmas. Parents will identify with Droysselmeyer's wish to create a magical Christmas for his goddaughter, Clara. Children will dream of their own magical journey filled with favorite toys come to life and dancing sugar plums.
Be sure to catch the Grand Rapids Ballet Company's next performances of The Nutcracker this week. The Grand Rapids Ballet will perform The Nutcracker at DeVos Performance Hall on Friday, December 20 thru Sunday, December 22. On Friday, the Nutcracker is at 7:30 pm, with a 2 pm and 7:30 pm performance on Saturday, and a 2 pm Sunday show. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster.
The Grand Rapids Ballet will also have a special one night performance of The Nutcracker at the Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts in Muskegon on Thursday, December 19th at 7 pm. Call the Frauenthal Box Office at 231-727-8001 or at Star Tickets 1-800-585-3737.