Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley
December 10th, 2011
"The Nutcracker" at Berkeley Ballet Theater is a charming interpretation of the Christmas classic, complete with a few very appropriate Berkeley-esque adjustments. Choreographed by Sally Streets and Robert Nichols, the annual production showcases the talent and dedication of this school's teachers, students and parents.
In the finale of Act I, the Snow Queen (Katie Wilson) and King (Damon Mahoney) presided over their wintry kingdom with stunning poise while the six snowflakes filled the stage with a tranquil flutter. Streets and Nichols' choreography is based in a circular thematic in order to reflect snow's shape and texture. The port de bras followed several unique patterns that spoke to this conceptual imagery: both arms circled from bras bas up to a high 5th position; and the Snow Queen made a similar pathway from 1st position to 3rd arabesque. Petit allegro sequences (lots of temps leveé) were also favored, imitating a light, airy snowfall. While the choreography and staging were beautifully done, I think the more noteworthy accomplishment is the artistic and technical education that students are receiving at Berkeley Ballet Theater. These dancers are being taught solid technique - obvious throughout the entire show, but specifically present with the snowflakes. There is clear emphasis being placed on keeping square and understanding how your legs, arms and core must work together to create the complexity that is classical ballet.