Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Nutcracker" - San Francisco Ballet

Mariellen Olson in Tomasson's "Nutcracker"
Photo by Erik Tomasson
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
December 9, 2011

If you long for a December filled with freezing precipitation, Helgi Tomasson's "Nutcracker" can fill that void with gorgeous costuming, inspired choreography and an abundance of glistening snow.  Act I's final scene is a brilliant physical expression of a winter dreamworld. 

Tomasson's snow scene begins with delicate choreography; an accurate interpretation of a quiet, tranquil, light snowfall.  The snowflake dancers move through their intricate formations with waltz steps, emboîté turns and piqués onto pointe - smooth, gentle phrases that cover the stage like a warm blanket.  As the intensity and tempo of the snowfall increases, a relevé sequence is added marking the staccato nature of the more dramatic winter weather.  The King and Queen of the Snow preside over this entire journey with a defined regality, performing noble lifts and majestic turns.  On opening night, these roles were danced by the elegant duo of Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian.  These two principals perform as a solid unit, giving consummate artistic and technical attention to every step from the overhead lifts to the low attitude turns.

In my review of last year's production, I noted that the women's corps de ballet was having some difficulty gelling as a group.  It was wonderful to see that just twelve months later, a comprehensive team has emerged - the corps should be very pleased with the strides they have made over the past year.  This newfound collective strength is definitely positive, though at the same time, it did emphasize that one snowflake was having a rough performance on opening night.  She was having difficulty maintaining the squareness in her hips and shoulders and her chaîné turns were very wobbly.  

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