Sugar Plum Fairy
Thanks to the gift of memory, we make Nat “King” Cole rituals of the holidays. Folks dressed up like Eskimos build frosty snowmen. As chestnuts roast on an open fire, we sit squinched into a favorite armchair staring at presents piled high under a tree. Suddenly, magically, a little girl becomes a leggy pre-teen gawking at sugar plums dressed like fairy queens. In cities around the world,’tis the season of “The Nutcracker” ballet.
Locally, the Telluride Dance Academy, under the direction of artistic director/choreographer Valerie Madonia, is mounting its “Nutcracker” production this weekend at The Palm on Friday, December 12, 7 p.m. and on Sunday, December 14, 3 p.m.
The event features a large cast ranging in age from 3 – 50+, including local notables such as Jeb Berrier as the Rat King, Buff Hooper as Madam Bonbon, Ashley Boling as Uncle Drosselmeyer, the mysterious Merlin of a man, who has traveled the world gathering exotic gifts and stores beyond imagining. It is Drosselmeyer who gives Clara the present of a Nutcracker.
The scenario for the original “Nutcracker” was based on a story by Alexander Dumas pere, “The Nutcracker of Nuremberg,” which in turn was based on “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman.
The Hoffman original was a tale about rodents trying to steal a little girl’s Christmas presents. An ugly Nutcracker Prince with a crooked nose and incisors comes to her defense. In turn, her kiss rescues the pitiful creature from the Mouse Queen’s curse, transforming him into a handsome prince.
The legendary Russian choreographer George Balanchine filled the New York City Ballet’s Christmas stockings with gold – and helped land the choreographer on the cover of “Time” – with his 1954 production of “The Nutcracker,” simultaneously creating a New American tradition.
In 1919, at age 15, Balanchine, had danced the Nutcracker Prince at the Maryinsky Theater where the Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov/Peter Tchaikovsky original opened in December 1892 to lukewarm reviews. At the dawn of the 20th century, audiences accustomed to bodice-ripping storylines were unimpressed by the childlike fantasy about the transformative powers of unconditional love, of innocence preserved, and Eden re-discovered.
Debuting when it did in the rama-lama-ding-dong innocence and prosperity of Eisenhower’s America, the Balanchine production could be seen as an idealized tribute to the joys of family life and conspicuous consumption.
Yesterday and today, this coming-of-age story speaks to the child in all of us.
Tickets, $30 for general admission and $35 for VIP seating, are available at Wizard Entertainment, or through the Dance Academy: www.telluridedanceacademy.org or 970-728-9605.