Dance Review | 'The Nutcracker' 

click to enlarge The annual holiday tradition performed by Rochester City Ballet and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra runs through Sunday.

PHOTO PROVIDED.

The annual holiday tradition performed by Rochester City Ballet and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra runs through Sunday.

With colorful sets, astounding dancers, and quite a bit of glitter, the Rochester City Ballet, accompanied by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, brings “The Nutcracker” to life onstage through Sunday at Kodak Hall.

Opening night brought crowds of children dressed in sparkling red outfits and families of all generations to Eastman Theatre. The night before Thanksgiving, it was clear this traditional performance marked the start of the holiday season for many.

Though this is the 24th year of “The Nutcracker” for Rochester City Ballet, it is the first time the company has performed the work under the direction of co-artistic directors Shannon Rodriguez and Megan Kamler. (Rodriguez and Kamler, who both trained at the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education and then joined Rochester City Ballet, took over in August.) In addition to directing the work, they also perform feature roles alongside company members, students of the Draper Center, and community members.

This year, two local students from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf joined the cast. Katie Miller, who plays Clara’s mother, embodied elegance in her role. Partnered with fellow RIT student Sam Sit, who played the father, Miller introduced the audience to the beautiful poise that would be carried throughout the show by many of the performers. Even the younger dancers — in particular Riley Hammond, who played Clara on opening night — and Samuel Gauss, who danced the lead Spanish role, demonstrated incredible talent and impressive control.

The scenes of the story, from the opening act that paints a picture-perfect Christmas Eve to the Land of Snowflakes and Kingdom of Sweets, were complete with elaborate backdrops and colorful sets. The set designers, Sylvia Hanlon and Gordon J. Estey, created a particularly enchanting scene of blues and greens that transported the audience to the Land of Snowflakes. The Bach Children’s Chorus of Rochester added to the ambience of the scene by singing with the orchestra.

click to enlarge The Snow King (John Deming) and Snow Queen (Katherine Duffy), from the alternate cast, in "The Nutcracker," which runs through Sunday at Kodak Hall. - PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • The Snow King (John Deming) and Snow Queen (Katherine Duffy), from the alternate cast, in "The Nutcracker," which runs through Sunday at Kodak Hall.
The Snow Queen (Samantha Howe) and Snow King (Adam Kittelberger) were standout performers. They tackled difficult lifts, pirouettes, and jumps with such ease that their movement almost mimicked breathing. Kittelberger kept Howe supported and in the spotlight, where she shined with a perfect blend of technical expertise and artistic expression. Their quiet confidence propelled them through the intricate sequences of both the Snow King and Queen and, in the second act, the role of the Arabian Coffee.

Whereas Howe and Kittelberger exuded elegance in the Land of Snowflakes, in their second role, they took on a mysterious and sensual nature. Howe’s smile turned coy to match the movement, while Kittelberger, whose tattoo sleeves contributed to the modern feel, gave an essential sense of strength to the duet.

In a more traditional essence of ballet, the Sugar Plum Fairy, played by Katherine Duffy in the Wednesday show, offered a pleasant sweetness. She brought the evening to a magical close with a sparkling tiara and impossibly fast pirouettes.

With its classical choreography and fresh faces, Rochester City Ballet’s version of “The Nutcracker” is both nostalgic and contemporary. Dance lovers, music enthusiasts, and fans of the holiday season alike will thoroughly enjoy a captivating night at the theater for this performance.

Sydney Burrows is a freelance contributor to CITY. Feedback about this article can be directed to [email protected].
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