The Nutcracker, New York City Ballet

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Nutcrackers come and go but George Balanchine’s became an institution from the moment it bowed in l954.It’s important to see,not just as a holiday treat butforthe fewyoung, promising dancers who, without fanfare, get a chance to try out in leading roles. Given the technical challenges of Sugarplum Fairy and Dewdrop (the lead dancer prominently featured in the “Waltz of the Flowers”) pulling it off with aplomb is not easy even for seasoned dancers. In a recent performance Miranda Weese as Dewdrop set a standard higher than Megan Fairchild, a less experienced principal, as Sugar Plum, could achieve. Weese’s crystalline clear technique, her exceptional musicality and natural radiance served Mr B’s Maryinsky-inspired choreography nobly. (As a student with the Imperial Russian Ballet, Balanchine danced a mouse and a Candy Cane). Fairchild’s Cavalier wasJoaquin De Luz who deserves more than the one big solo he gets. He helped her through a tentative opening in the grand Act Two pas de deux and ,although gaining assurance, she was never more than bland. Earlier this season a young soloist, Sterling Hyltin, drew praise for her chance at this demanding role. As leader of the Marzipan Shepherdesses in the Land of Sweets, she was delectable indeed. Slender, with very long legs that looked great under Karinska’s tiny, bonbon-decorated tutu, her attack was crisp, her pirouettes precise, the overall impression one of dainty, animated porcelain. Another name to watch is the corps member Fay Arthurs, who danced the seductive solo “Coffee”, which requires exceptional suppleness with its backbends and floorwork, with sophisticated sensuality.

Balanchine made a point of using children in his works and Nutcracker offers School of American Ballet students, some mere moppets, plenty to do. This year Ghaleb Kayali and Clara Ruf-Maldonado took their turn nicely among several Maries and Little Princes (the Nutcracker).With Adam Hendrickson as more of an old wag and less sinister than some Drosselmyers, and with the conductor Fayçal Karoui keeping the orchestra sounding fresh, this was a Nutcracker to delight more than just children.

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