Photos provided by Lexington Ballet
A REVIEW OF LEXINGTON BALLET'S
2018 PERFORMANCE OF THE NUTCRACKER
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
The stars in the heavens are dancing through space, the earth never ceases to spin. All life is dancing: the trees with the wind, the waves on the sea, the birds, the fish, all are performing their own dance of life.*
This quote encompasses the joyful, hope-filled atmosphere expressed through Lexington Ballet’s 2018 performance of The Nutcracker. I attended Lexington Ballet’s remarkable Sunday matinee performance at the lovely and intimate Lexington Opera House.
Whether you’ve seen this famous ballet or not, I encourage you to get your tickets to see Lexington Ballet’s unique performance. Shows are scheduled annually to run through December. The cast’s energetic and passionate dancing, the colorful array of gorgeous costumes, and the romantic settings and props will put even Scrooge or The Grinch in a festive mood.
E.T.A. Hoffman’s story, The Nutcracker originated in Russia. Composer Peter Tchaikovsky wrote the music. Tchaikovsky’s music is now famous and recognized by even the youngest of listeners, thanks to technology, cartoons, and commercials. But experiencing Lexington Ballet’s live performance is one of the best ways to re-introduce or expose audiences to the real deal.
The Nutcracker was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. It was commissioned by Moscow’s Imperial Theatres director, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891. In sync with the story’s historical premier the week before Christmas 1892, the Lexington Ballet’s version opens with a family Christmas party. The story is about young Clara’s Christmas Eve, and her dreamy perspective of the world and romance.
I’ve seen the ballet several times, performed by visiting international dance troupes, as well as the televised 1977 American Ballet Theatre production featuring Mikhael Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.
But, Lexington Ballet’s show stands out as special for several reasons, including the pure innocence bursting forth in a way that only young people are able to express. The nearly tangible love and joy penetrated my adult heart and moved me to tearful emotion throughout the entire show. I was touched by the unlimited hope and passion for life symbolized by these talented young dancers, as they clearly poured their entire beings into each dance.
It’s the youngest cast I’ve seen perform The Nutcracker. Elementary age children portray mischievous party guests at the opening Christmas scene. They also dance in well-coordinated groups of ‘mice’ and ‘toy soldiers.’ Their focused, harmonized movements impressed this former music educator, who knows well the challenge of training youth for performances.
Contrasting to how audiences recoiled from seeing children on stage at The Nutracker’s Russian premier, Lexington Ballet’s masterful inclusion of their well-rehearsed presence added to the magic of the uplifting stage drama, creating the illusion of real characters.
Lexington Ballet’s dancers range from elementary age through junior and senior high school to the ensemble and professional cast’s millennials, capping at early 30s. This wide-range of youth adds to the boisterous energy of their show. That youthful energy is one of Lexington Ballet’s signature drawing points. The unlimited power of youth is palpable in their dance performances. Witnessing the expressive, energetic drive of these young dancers pierces the heart with hope and love.
Speaking of stellar young talent, ninth grader Anna Karen Kinghorn’s portrayal of Clara was mesmerizing. Her delicate, graceful moves, along with her radiant innocence and cheer made every one of her performances a sheer joy to watch.
Rounding out the opposite spectrum of the age range was her able, gifted partner, Lexington Ballet Company cast dancer, Casey Myrick. Myrick portrayed Clara’s father in the opening scene, and the Nutcracker Prince with a dignified, dramatic, yet benevolent power, both in dance and demeanor. The partnership of Myrick and Kinghorn’s dances was natural, smooth and seemingly effortless.
Lexington Ballet’s show involves a diverse cast, spanning many ages, cultures, body types, and dance styles. Kudos to the artistic director, Luis Dominguez, for his incredible gift for choreographing each scene, style, and for pairing dance partners in a way that allows each cast member to beautifully shine.
That is no small accomplishment, as the program notes show the shuffling of two separate casts, denoted by colors (red and gold) and groups of young children. Dancers are assigned unique roles depending on which color the performance will feature.
Lexington Ballet Company dancer, Ayako Hasebe Lloyd exquisitely performed as the dainty Dew Drop Fairy in Sunday’s matinee show, but will instead dance the Arabian for Red shows. The story unfolds seamlessly as cast members alternate capably and believably from solo roles to ensemble dances.
The artistic vision of Dominguez is orchestrated beautifully as exhibited by both ensembles and solo dancers. Alexandra Orenstein’s sumptuous version of the Arabian dancer was electrifying, colorfully capturing a sense of the unusual aspect of a different culture. The Lexington Ballet Ensemble, and all the soloists in The Nutcracker, performed wonderfully, and depicted a spirited, lively spectacle of a magnificent drama.
Photos courtesy of Lexington Ballet. Rat dancers photo by Mark Mahan.
On the array of ages involved, professional dancer and Lexington Ballet instructor, Lloyd, is adamant about the Lexington Ballet’s mission to “send the message that ballet is for everyone. It’s inspiring for the younger ones to see the mature dancers.”
Lloyd says that Lexington Ballet supports “layers of everyone’s dreams—younger ones aspire to be angels, angels aspire to be one of the featured roles. Even pros have aspiring goals while also being role models for others. It’s a community of inspiration for others and to keep dance alive in the community.”
She adds, “Audiences get the chance to support the youth’s dreams, and experience holiday magic; like being part of something beautiful they can take home with them and spread to others.” She says that the holidays are a wonderful time to “entertain guests with getting out together to enjoy this live ballet experience with the beautiful score by Tchaikovsky.”
The Lexington Ballet dancers will inspire you to “Live with a dancing spirit. Every living thing is dancing, and you must keep dancing too, for the rest of your life!”*
As an audience member, taking in the artful explosion of pure passion from the Lexington Ballet dancers left my heart full. What better way to enjoy the Holiday Season than with the spirit of hope, community, and enthusiasm for life that these dancers represent?
Find upcoming events at: LexingtonBalletCompany.org
Lexington Ballet Company is a professional dance company and a ballet school with non-profit 501(c)(3) status since 1975. The Lexington Ballet’s mission is to present high caliber productions, educate youth in the art of ballet, and engage with the community through outreach.
Lexington Ballet offers classes ranging from kindergarten through adults. They support a variety of community alliances, including in-School Programs, For Educator Field Trips, Countdown to Kindergarten and Scholarships.
Bring your school, church, or group to a performance!
Special performances are scheduled during weekdays so that schools and non-profit groups may attend. Each performance will have a detail introduction and question and answer time with the Artistic Director and performers. These programs meet Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) for Dance and Theatre. Study guides are available in English or Spanish(if requested in advance).
Find more Nutcracker books, CDs, DVDs, here.
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