'Tis the Season for East Indian Giving

The question you should be asking yourself right now is not “Do I want to see the Kansas City Ballet’s scrumptious production of "The Nutcracker?”

Ah, ‘tis the sugar plum season. And, apparaently, it’s also the season for quotation marks to go awry. (I’ll let Lisa Jo Sagolla of the KC Star correct this for herself)

But, the questions I’m asking myself today are whether or not I can afford my house, send my kids to college, buy next weeks’ groceries. Stuff like that.

So, do I want to see the scrumptious Nutcracker? Probably n...

Of course you do.

But, but...

It’s a holiday treat that children adore and all but the most Scrooge-like among us value as a time-honored, family-entertainment tradition.

By “Scrooge-like,” do you mean “tight wad?” Is this an advertisement or a review?

Your dilemma is to decide how many performances of "The Nutcracker" time will allow you to attend.

Or, for $19.98 plus tax, I could find myself an awesome DVD of the Nutcracker, then watch it as many times I very damn well please, and in front of my ultra-deluxe fireplace in my soon-to-be foreclosed house. (Not that I’m advocating this; it’s just that the cheapest seat to the KC Ballet is $20, which means it’ll cost at least $40 for a parent and a kid to sit in the balcony, which is approximately .3 miles from the stage.)

Fine. Advertisement it is. Lisa Jo, close the deal and let’s be done with this.

The Kansas City Ballet enjoys an abundance of riches when it comes to talented dancers who can perform the ballet’s exciting array of featured roles. Wisely, the company’s artistic director William Whitener has double- and in some cases triple-cast virtually all the solo parts. If you really want to appreciate all this production has to offer, seeing the show just once is hardly enough. At the opening matinee on Saturday afternoon, the stand-out performances were Nadia Iozzo’s gorgeous interpretation of the sensual Arabian Dance, Deanna Doyle’s dynamic portrayal of Dewdrop, and the exquisitely polished corps de ballet work by the women’s ensemble in both the Waltz of the Flowers and the Snowflakes scene.

Sounds like it could be really—what was it?—“scrumptious.”

Also noteworthy was Angelina Sansone as the stately Snow Queen. The lanky dancer made elegant use of her head, neck, and upper body to form stunning classical lines.

Okay, I’m sold. Let’s head on down to the Music Hall, shall we! How much, again?

If only she had been able to find her center on her pirouettes. Sansone has a habit of dropping her chin as she begins to turn which compromises her aristocratic allure and probably doesn’t help her pirouetting.


While Michael Eaton needed to be a bit more percussive in his rendition of the challenging Chinese Dance...

While Lisa Jo needs to ease off, if she wants me to buy a ticket or two.

...the production’s only significant weak link was Lisa Choules’s portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy. A stiff, brittle-looking dancer with a jerky jump, she brought a lovely delicacy yet complete lack of clarity to the choreography. Her dancing is pretty, but makes no visceral impact. She seems to relinquish her muscular tensions just before she hits the endpoints of her positions, so her body shapes don’t fully register and no energy is projected out beyond her body.

I thought, for a half-second, that I might want to go to this at least once, if not twice. But, now...

Man, this is getting ugly.

Set to the famous Tchaikovsky score, played live by the Kansas City Ballet Orchestra under the expert direction of Ramona Pansegrau, the ballet’s uneven choreography, created by artistic director emeritus Todd Bolender, needs a bit of freshening up.

Uh, come to think of it, I’d rather spend my money elsew...

What’s that? You’re not finished?

While the enchanting second-act variations are first-rate, much of the movement performed by the children during the first-act party scene is too slow, simplistic, and predictable to be dramatically engaging.

Not even the kids are spared. Heartless. Just heartless.

The kids’ leisurely, pedestrian moves are placed squarely on each steady beat of the music, making even the tiniest of the dancers’ rhythmic errors glaringly obvious.

So, is it still a moral obligation to see this more than once, because I’d go if it was? But, it doesn’t sound all that good, so...

Figure 1. Actual nutcracker used in ballet

The attempts at physical comedy by the battle scene’s troupe of fat, effeminate mice fail to tickle, frighten, or entertain. Their actions descend too often into movement clichés that beg for more imaginative choreographic re-invention.

I could just watch a marathon of A Christmas Story, that’s sort of a tradition these days.


Gustav said...

Wow! That's a spectacular find. "Greatest show on earth if you can forgive the horrid dancing, out-of-tune playing, and ugly, ugly children."