“The Nutcracker” is a Christmastime staple for me. After performing in the ballet for 10 years, I still get butterflies when I hear the music in commercials and department stores during the holiday season. Dayton and Cincinnati Ballets have both proven to be inadequate in my quest for a beautiful and classical Nutcracker experience, so I turned to the Joffrey Ballet for its production, paired with the Cleveland Orchestra.
The party scene, while remaining the most dull portion of the story’s plot, was vivid with bright costumes and a dynamic set. Small touches, such as candle snuffers to extinguish the Christmas tree, kept the ballet true to its Victorian-era roots.
The battle scene was similarly jazzed up with firing cannon and smoke. The stage transformed into a winter wonderland with a dazzling land of snow, when the choreography picked up and the Joffrey’s dancers shone to the music enriched with the children’s choir.
Christine Rocas lit up the stage from the beginning as Clara’s elegant mother. I was delighted to see her reappear in a glittering tutu as the snow queen when she performed a beautiful pas de deux with partner Rory Hohenstein.
Rocas later demonstrated her artistic talent and malleability as the unique Arabian dancer. The piece was much slower than I am accustomed to, but each movement was so extravagant, the audience hung on her every move. Rocas was the star of the show as she magnificently transitioned between characters from Clara’s regal mother to the beautiful, classic snow queen, to the sultry and enticing Arabian, executing near flawless technique in each role.
The Joffrey Ballet’s version, choreographed by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, focused on the whimsical nature of ballet rather than the underlying love story portrayed by many other versions.
In fact, Clara didn’t have a pas de deux with her beloved Nutcracker at all. Their rendition instead focused on the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince, beautifully danced by April Daly and Miguel Angel Blanco.
Although I wished for more personality with the Sugar Plum, her execution was incredible and I certainly held my breath when she performed a daring flip before the final fish dive.
Overall, the Joffrey’s Nutcracker was a magnificent production that remained true to the beauty of the ballet as originally envisioned.
Event: The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
Location: State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Ave.