Transporting audiences to a winter wonderland

By Kaydee Donohoo
Staff Writer

In the past few years, the Boston Ballet has received world attention under the artistic direction of Mikko Nissinen. A spectacular of their shows has recently opened up in the Boston Opera House, and I cannot recommend this directing of “The Nutcracker” highly enough.

This is the show’s third year running and it isn’t going to go anywhere soon. If you’d like to forget where you are for two hours, the abstract concept of Christmas can become concrete before your eyes during the performance. The world is always just a perception of the mind; although you are technically sitting in a chair, your perception of the world will be living in the illusion created.

There were layers upon layers of set scenery, creating the strong impression of depth. Additional wings made the stage appear to open up with more space around the dancers. No detail was too small to add with perfection, even for sets that were only used for one scene, such as the opening with Drosselmeier’s theater. Rows and rows of toys were set behind each, only to be swept away after a few minutes until the next performance.

The use of unusual Lighting, detailed props, and stage craft formed effects that were no less than magic. A few surprises took my breath away entirely, as I still wonder how exactly some things could be pulled off through one stage. The largest Christmas tree stands 42’6”, with 766 fiber optic points to give different lighting effects. Along with 600 ornaments it is impressive to note that the tree “grew” entirely before the audience’s eyes. Set changes were done seamlessly by a stagehand pulling ropes on a track system with steel cages. Without a folding curtain, other than intermission, each scene blossomed out of the next.

While 182 costumes are used in each performance about 350 in total were made for all the casts together. Using these different troupes, 44 performances span across just five weeks. Cast members not only include the usual Boston Ballet Company, but also students from Boston Ballet II and the Boston Ballet School. Over three or four casts, 250 children fill the stage at different times to show dancers of many sizes. These students made quite adorable reindeer and lambs, the latter actually eliciting an “aww” from the audience.       

The ballet can easily be divided mentally into the two acts. The first act was full of faster-paced action to tell a story. The synopsis was barely needed to understand what was going on. Many moments warranted laughter from the audience through charismatic dancers. There was so much to see during the mouse battle scene and Christmas party scenes it was at times hard to decide what to take in. The acting was so engrossing that talking went unmissed. It would be unlikely to hear a child say, “I prefer things with dialogue.”

The second act told less of a story, and instead was packed with soloist dances or small group numbers. Here was where the audience found most of the recognizable songs, such as “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Russian Dance.”

Speaking of Sugarplum fairies, principle dancer Misa Kuranaga, who has been dancing with Boston Ballet for over a decade, has this show as her latest irreparable work. Her solo numbers as the sugarplum fairy took an unbelievable amount of stamina and skill.

A series of turns around the stage from her and her pas de deux partner Jeffrey Cirio were too fast for my human eyes to keep up with. They, along with the performers of the Arabian, Russian, and Chinese dances, received many moments of applause throughout their numbers. In the case that “The Nutcracker” is usually a person’s introduction to ballet, the solos in the second act open a door of capability from the dancers’ bodies previously unknown to many.    

“The Nutcracker” is a classic Christmas tradition, and if you plan on making it a part of your seasonal celebration, Mikko Nissinen’s production with the Boston Ballet won’t disappoint.

Though the performances have just begun, seats are selling fast, so don’t hesitate to grab your tickets. Student rush tickets are $20, which can be bought at the box office when students arrive two hours prior to the show.

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