Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 8, 2018 evening
George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker falls into the conservative camp. Sweet, traditional, with a happy ending, it’s a “G” rated ballet that appeals to youngsters of all ages.
I attended the first of the evening shows, the run having debuted that afternoon. I found the company in great shape and in high holiday spirits. The ensembles looked tight, and the entire cast appeared very well rehearsed and “up” for the show.
It’s been fun enjoying OBT over 15 years or so and seeing how some of my favorite dancers have flourished and grown along with it. Some, such as retired principal Alison Roper, were always at the top of their game, while others gained necessary artistic maturity and form. It’s so much fun seeing them in both new and returning roles.
This time, Xuan Cheng as the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy led the Act II cast and was totally in command of the triple demands — balancer, turner, and jumper; all three rolled up into one impressive package. Witnessing her was a rare treat indeed. Her Cavalier was Brian Simcoe in whom I have complete confidence. He is one of the company members who has demonstrated consistent growth and is now at the top of his game. I hope this lasts for a long, long time!
I enjoy some of the small differences between OBT’s production and that of Pacific Northwest Ballet, both doing the Balanchine choreography but with completely different sets and costumes. One of most memorable is how the Grandmother is spun around by Herr Drosselmeier ’til she’s dizzy and falls into the arm of Grandfather. Cute, droll. I also crave and love OBT’s Mother Ginger of Poison Waters whose mild antics mesh with what I want and expect to see — on the silly and mildly naughty side. Totally still “G “rated but funny and fun. Putting on powder — face and under arms; puckering up to a mirror for lipstick; having a swig (or two); shaking both her/his shoulders and the tambourine.
And now for the dancing. Top drawer from beginning to end. Dancing dolls and soldier of the Party Scene to the Snowflakes, to Act II’s divertissement: Spanish Hot Chocolate; Arabian; Candy Canes (Russian); Mother Ginger, her enormous skirt and Polichinelles; Flowers and finally, the Grand Pas de Deux and Finale. I mentioned the one “gimmick” and that’s how at the end of the Grand Pas de Deux, the Sugar Plum Fairy steps onto a device that allows her to be pulled and slid across the stage for a bit…on full pointe. Very impressive and exciting, indeed.