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Saturday, December 24, 2016

December Warhorses, part three: MORE Nutcrackers!

Shelly Anderson as the hostess of Nutcracker Rouge
My December chestnut tour ended up with ... more Nutcrackers. Also, a visit to the Trocks. I didn't really enjoy the Trocks as much as I thought I would (despite their very funny Passages in Space, a parody of Merce Cunningham). The Dying Swan number was cute, I guess. But it really wasn't my kind of thing.

So let's talk about those Nutcrackers. On December 22, I went to see Company XIV's wonderful Nutcracker Rouge. It's now in the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn (tucked away by a church) but it's still the same great show it was last year, with a few changes here and there. Austin McCormick's skill at putting together a cohesive entertainment from a company of such eclectic talents is amazing. There's been some turnover (Laura Careless is no longer with the company -- Allison Ulrich danced Marie Claire this year) but the mainstays are still there -- Shelly Watson as the hostest/cabaret singer, Marcy Richardson singing Sia's "Chandelier" while doing some jaw-dropping Pink-like trapeze artist moves. As usual, the Nutcracker score is mixed with Madonna, baroque music, even hip hop, and whatever else strikes Austin McCormick's fancy. The result: by far my favorite alternative Nutcracker, ever. Go see them. You'll have fun and become an instant fan of this quirky, wildly talented company.

Here are some videos I took of the evening.


Here is their beautiful snow scene:



Arabian Variation. This guy's skill with a hula hoop is astonishing. I've seen many Arabian variations in many Nutcracker versions and I have to say this one is my favorite.



Marcy Richardson singing Sia's Chandelier while hanging from the hoop is a huge audience favorite. People started cheering the minute they saw the hoop being lowered. Marcy Richardson is a talented singer period -- she later sang a Vivaldi aria with all the bells and whistles ornamentation.




The charming Mother Ginger variation in which the children were replaced by sexy French poodles. This is another audience favorite, with people clapping the minute the poodles came out. Again, a very clever take on this Nutcracker tradition.


And finally, the grand pas de deux in which Marie-Claire's dreams are finally consummated. Audience gave them a standing ovation. This video doesn't give an idea of how small the space was in which they were dancing. But it's a tiny stage, and so the big lifts and acrobatic choreography had a high-wire thrill -- were they going to fall offstage right into the champagne bottles?


More videos of Nutcracker Rouge can be found here.

Tiler Peck as Dewdrop, photo @ Paul Kolnik
The next evening I was back at NYCB for my third Nutcracker of the year. I went primarily to see a different cast -- Ashley Laracey and Zachary Catazaro as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, and also to see Tiler Peck's amazing Dewdrop again. Ashley Laracey is one of the company's most graceful, lyrical dancers and she did not disappoint in this role. Her flexible back, gorgeous extensions, and lovely epaulement immediately made her a gracious, winning leader of the Kingdom of the Sweets. In the grand pas de deux she unfurled her long limbs and beautiful feet to create a majestic, serene impression. Her movement is so lush, so able to fill out the phrases of the music. This is a portrayal that's worth a return visit. This is my third Sugarplum Fairy of the year and they were all in their own way wonderful. Sterling Hyltin is the most graceful and charming, Tiler Peck the most technically secure, and Ashley Laracey the most lyrical. I love them all.

Zachary Catazaro had a bit of hesitation with the shoulder jump lifts but otherwise was a fine partner and his variation in the coda had fast, centered, pirouettes with the free leg alternating between relevé position and pirouettes a la seconde. And have I mentioned that he's very, very handsome? Tiler Peck's Dewdrop is a known quantity -- a modern classic. Every time she dances this she almost plays with the audience, either by holding a balance for eternity, or by slowly lowering her free leg to show off her strength. Her way of accelerating turns never fails to astonish. Like Ashley Bouder she can perform those pirouettes with leg in high attitude without ever lowering the leg. She had the audience roaring.

Overall,  a lovely performance despite the fact that there had to be a mid-performance Marie change (the dark-haired Maria Kashvili was subbed out for the red haired Emerson Tate Alexander in the second act), and another weird hiccup: Alexa Maxwell was doing a lovely job in the Coffee variation until she dropped a bell and it slid downstage. It was later picked up by Devin Alberda as he ran into the wings after his Candy Cane variation. This chivalrous gesture earned him a small ovation.

Here is an instagram picture of Ashley Laracey and Zachary Catazaro:

A photo posted by Ashley Laracey (@ashleylaracey) on

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