The artificial snow has been carefully swept from the stage, the chandeliers packed away and the extravagant costumes cleaned and boxed until next year as the stage lights fade on another Ohio Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker”. Judging by the enthusiastic response at the gala opening on Friday night I would venture to say that his year’s show is one of the best that this small company from Oberlin, Ohio has ever put on.
Ohio Dance Theatre has at its core a group of very dedicated professional dancers, some of who travel many miles in order to practice and perform. They are augmented by students from Oberlin College as well as various area dance schools.
Each performance takes weeks of grueling work that us mere mortals would have difficulty with even one tenth of the effort. As a result you get consistently wonderful performances that dazzle and amaze. It truly is Classical Ballet at its best and brings all the traditions that have been in place for hundreds of years.
This year’s performance of “The Nutcracker” that was shown at the Stocker Arts Center on the Lorain County Community College Campus that is located in Elyria, Ohio was a prime example. Let us start with the stage. As the show opened, there was a translucent curtain that had large windows projected on it to give the audience the feeling of being outside the grand mansion as guests made their way to the front door. When this was raised it gave a clear view of the wonderful main room of the house with its bedecked Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped gifts at its base, there was a staircase on the left and three chandeliers hanging from the “ceiling”.
The detail in the costuming was quite extravagant. Everyone on stage was decked out to the tenth degree with no sparing of expense. The colorful costumes reflect the richness of the time that the show represents. For this production there were nineteen professional dancers filling the nearly eighty dancing roles with some having to go through two, three or even four costume changes. This included twelve regular company dancers, two guest soloists from New York City Ballet, two company apprentice dancers and three company trainees. Children from area dance schools were also included in the production.. That gives you an idea of the structured chaos that must ensue backstage. In spite of this challenge, the show moved quite nicely with no mis-cues on stage and only a couple of onstage gaffs that are too minor to mention.
As for the high points of the production, there are many. Juliana Freude as Clara brought a sweetness and innocence to the role. Tremaine Fryerson as her brother Fritz added some comedy sparkle without overdoing it. There was a delightful interplay with David Duffield as the Butler and Allison Butler as the Maid. Kyle Primous was Herr Dresselmeyer (Clara’s God Father) who played the role with a bit of childlike mischievousness and a great flourish in his entrance and exits. Tito Reyes as the Harlequin Doll, Kasha Hilton as the Columbine Doll and Henry Seth as the Moor Doll did amazing locked leg numbers that showed off their dancing skills to the max. Courtney Jankovic and Henry Self appeared as the Snow Queen and Snow King who effortlessly leaped and bounded across the stage with some amazing lifts added for good measure.
Madeleine Gurney dances as the Palace Princess (one of her four roles for the show) in a delightful number with the angel dancers. Courtney Jankovic was costumed as an elegant peacock and gave a demonstration of how a limber body can bend in unbelievable ways. Rounding out the cast of notables for this year’s performance was none other than Daniel Ulbricht and Erica Pereira who performed the show stopping Grand Pas de Deux. Both are principle dancers with the New York City Ballet and their duet as well as solo numbers simply took your breath away. Having danced this particular role for years they dazzled the audience with incredible jumps. At different points, Erica ran full speed across the stage and leapt into Daniel’s arms as he picked her up over his head, all in one fluid movement. WOW! I must mention also that I had the honor of attending the opening night pre-show and post show gala and met with Daniel and Erica. As with all members of the cast, they are the nicest people one could spend time with. They had no problem posing for numerous photos in spite of a strenuous performance only minutes before.
We are blessed in Northeastern Ohio to have a premiere Classical Ballet company who is able to mount shows that are equal if not better than those found in much larger cities such as New York City and Chicago and at a truly affordable price. With this astounding company being only a forty-five minute drive away and just off of I-90 I suggest you check out their forthcoming productions and support this extraordinary company in all that they do. It just does not make sense to travel hundreds of miles North or East to see exactly the same caliber of performance right here in our own back yard. For more information on Ohio Dance Theatre, click Here.
Mrs. Stahlbaum, Courtney Jankovic; Mr. Stahlbaum, Tito Reyes; Clara, Juliana Freude; Clara’s Friends: Kenzie Delaney, Kassandra Lee, Jessica Jimeniz and Jennifer Jimeniz,; Party Girls and Boys: Emerson Freas, Auggie Houtz, Clark Houtz and Alisha Matheson; Fritz, Tremaine Fryerson; Fritz’s Friends: Jack Freas, Emma Matheson, Diana Perez and Annaleigh Perez; Maid, Allison Butler; Butler, David Duffield; Dresselmeyer, Kyle Primous; Party Guests: William Ward, Regina Pietraroia, Jennifer Norris and Henry Seth; Harlequin Doll, Tito Reyes; Columbine Doll, Kasha Hilton; Moor Doll, Henry Seth; Mice: Caitlin Burke, Kasha Hilton, Kassandra Lee, Jennifer Norris and Monica Starr; Mouse King, Kyle Primous; Nutcracker Cavalier, William Ward; Soldiers: Rebecca Fleisher, Madeleine Gurney, Jennifer Jimenez, Jessica Jimenez, Cristia Johnson and Regina Pietraroia; Snow Queen, Courtney Jankovic; snow King, Henry Self; Snowflakes: Caitlin Burke, Rebecca L[Fleisher, Madeleine Gurney, Kasha Hilton, Jennifer Jimenez, Jessica Jimenez, Cristia Johnson, Kassandra Lee, Jennifer Norris, Regina Pietraroia and Monica Starr; Angels: Zenobia Calhoun, Kenna Fields, Avery Homer, Anna Macino, Leyana Medina, Erin Morris, Brianna Nackes, Sophia Petrocci, Isabelle Pritchard and Shealynn Stutz; Palace Princess, Madeleine Gurney; Mother Ginger, David Duffield; Bon Bons: Amaris Anderson, Kenzie Delaney, Kira FitzGerald, Emerson Freas, Maggie Marshal, Alicia Matheson, Emma Matheson, Anailee Perez, Diana Perez, Leah Sunderman and Regina Wolf; Spanish: Jennifer Jimenez, Jessica Jimenez, Christia Johnson and Jennifer Norris; Chinese: Rebecca Fleisher and Monica Starr; Arabian, Courtney Jankovic; Mirlitons: Caitlin Burke, Kasha Hilton, Kassandra Lee and Regina Pietraroia; Russian: Kenzie Delaney, Jennifer Jimenez, Jessica Jimenez, Christia Johnson and Henry Seth; Flowers: Caitlin Burke, Rebecca Fleisher, Madeleine Gurney, Kasha Hilton, Kassandra Lee, Jennifer Norris, Regina Pietraroia and Monica Starr; Dew Drop Fairy, Courtney Jankovic; Grand Pas de Deux: Daniel Ulbricht and Erica Pereira.
Choreography and Staging: Denise Gula; Music: Tchaikovsky; Original Lighting Design: Diana Nelson; Rehearsal Assistant: Nancy Brenstuhl; Stage Manager: Astrid Jobe; Narrator: Ralph McGinnis; Administrative Support: Hanna Hammel and Michelle Masek, Artistic Director: Denise Gula; General Manager: Megan Cain.
Mark Horning is a writer of Fine Arts article for Examiner.com as well as a photographer for a number of dance companies in the area. While not an expert on the subject of Classical or Contemporary Ballet he does try to give a layman’s impression of productions that he sees. His views are strictly his opinion of how the performances have affected him. Whether you agree or disagree with his opinion, you are invited to comment at the bottom of each article or review. Your remarks will be held in strictest confidence. Thanks! Mark Horning