Miami City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker: A Magical Journey in a Tropical Setting

Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

The magic begins as soon as the overture starts and the projections of a winter village appear on the screen with a mouse running back and forth. The enchantment begins and the packed house at Broward Center for the Performing Arts (North of Miami) is more than ready for the action to begin. This is the second year Miami City Ballet has presented a fresh redesign on the costumes and sets by renowned designers Isabel and Ruben Toledo. The costumes and sets give a nod to the spirit and temperature of Miami- lots of pastels and fabrics which flows beautifully with the movements of the dancers.

Act I belongs to the children and their childhood games and pranks. Projections by Wendall K. Harrinton help to make the house come alive. The Christmas tree, not only grows but expands to fill the stage. The projections add an additional dimension to the story. Marie (Mia Niebruegge) and Fritz (Dominick Scherer) makes for a delightful sister and brother team. Children and adults are enjoying a delightful Christmas Eve when Herr Drosselmeier (Reyneris  Reyes) bringing mysterious gifts including a toy Nutcracker which he presents to Marie, to her delight.

Miami City Ballet School students in Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.
Miami City Ballet School students in Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker © Alexander Iziliaev.

There are many highlights from Act I, including the Nutcracker turning into a Prince and taking Marie on a magical journey through a  winter forest where they encounter the enchanting Waltz of the Snowflakes. Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the ballet is Marie and her Prince walking through the flurry of snow and onto their next journey. It is a moment of perfect peace and awe.

Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is based on George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker which was first presented in February 1954, audiences were captivated by Tchaikovsky’s score and Balanchine’s choreography. From the beginning Balanchine wanted a tree that would grow to a majestic height. The Toledo’s set and Harrington’s projection designs are impressive and in keeping with Balanchine’s vision. Miami City Ballet’s new production adds a touch of the tropics to Balanchine’s masterpiece.

Nathalia Arja and Miami City Ballet dancers in Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.
Nathalia Arja and Miami City Ballet dancers in Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

Act II takes us to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugarplum Fairy (Jordan- Elizabeth Long) welcomes Marie and the Prince. Angels glide across the stage, heavenly beings performed by students from the Miami City Ballet School. This act transports us into a child’s sense of wonder; sweets, candy, confectionary, and a cornucopia of delicacies. Marie and the Prince watch the scene from a pineapple throne which adds a regional feel. In the Land of Sweets, the Sugarplum Fairy showcase a kaleidoscope of various dances representing foreign countries and different sweets. Hot Chocolate, representing Spain, is dressed in a deep brown with turquoise. The contrast was striking and pleasing. Coffee ( Emily Bromberg ) danced an athletic but sublime performance. Alexander Peters, like Candy Cane, was riveting and an audience favourite.

Miami City Ballet dancers in Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

Dew Drop ( Tricia Albertson) and The Waltz of the Flowers was filled with lots of upper body movements and are a study in patterns, lines, and change in directions. The dancers were flawless with the Dew Drop leading the dancers in a stellar performance. The Sugarplum Fairy steps and musical phrases took us from one grand beauty to another. Her Cavalier (Chase Swatosh)   was a wonderful partner especially as he pulled her across the stage on pointe.

The Nutcracker was presented with live music by the Opus One Orchestra with Gary Sheldon as principal conductor. The orchestration takes the listener through one special sound world after another.

The magic of the Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is the joy it brings to children ( and adults ) of all ages and its tropical aspects of Miami.

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