New England Dance Ensemble founder Barbara Mullen knows that if people do not know history, they are doomed to repeat it.
On Sunday, April 16, the New England Dance Ensemble (NEDE) performed A Child’s View of the Holocaust at Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, NH. The show was free and a benefit for the nonprofit organization. The temple generously served lunch prior to the production. This ballet was 40 minutes with no intermission followed by a brief Q and A session and the show is currently streaming online. The audience was encouraged to pause in quiet reflection rather than applaud. Click here for more information.
Barbara Mullen, NEDE’s Artistic Director, first produced A Child’s View of the Holocaust in 1990 and it has become an educational tool for thousands of audiences in its over 30 year history. Its purpose is to memorialize the youngest victims of the Holocaust to ensure society will never forget and these horrors will not ever be repeated. Few survived to tell their story, but relatives of a few of the victims were present in the audience on April 16.
Set in 1939, A Child’s View of the Holocaust is a depiction of how insidiously and methodically the new Nazi regime darkened the world and lured millions of victims. One million out of six million victims of the holocaust were children. It shows the progression of once innocent school children in braids and plaids as they wave at their friends shortly before a new and harrowing reality unfolds. The panic, the shame, the indignation, and the implied brutality are difficult to watch, but the discovery and final understanding is the most poignant piece in the production.
The Nazis, led by Anya Petravicz, snake like a menacing train. Stiff, militaristic, and linear, the dancers invade with expressions vacant and unyielding. Coordinated by ballet master Andrew Matte, the production has a wealth of physical engagement that implies violence, but is no less powerful.
A Child’s View of the Holocaust is a collaborative and stirring production delivered with careful grace, skill, and sensitivity by these young performers. However, Harrison Conellier as the Holocaust’s first victim and Ipeksu Yucel as a Jewish mother offer powerful performances in evocative surprise, anger, and anguish as they are forced into impossible decisions in this journey to find light in the depths of loss.
New England Dance Ensemble continues to offer this important production to different institutions for educational purposes. NEDE will next present The Lorax followed by The Nutcracker in the fall. Click here for more information.
If there wasn’t enough time to see The Nutcracker over the holidays or even if you have and would like to see more, the Boston Ballet is offering a spin on The NutcrackerDuke Ellington-style choreographed by Boston Ballet dancers right from your home.
With special commentary by jazz-enthusiast Eric Jackson nicknamed the ‘Dean of Boston Jazz Radio’ and host of GBH’s Eric in the Evening who rewinds the clock to take a peek at the inspiration behind Ellington’s timeless, progressive Nutcracker Suite, Boston Ballet along with Boston Ballet II and Boston Ballet School post graduates choreograph a lively program from 2020 that highlights and spins some of the Nutcracker’s best moments with their own vibe.
The Gift is a dynamic program where each dancer seems they are being moved by the music more than moving to the music. As much as I am a fan of Boston Ballet’s classic works, there is something even more thrilling when it is infused with upbeat and contemporary flavor.
From sleek and sophisticated flair to casual and carefree fun, Boston Ballet presents this virtual holiday treat The Gift through January 9 which includes behind the scenes footage and runs approximately 50 minutes. Click here for more information and access to the show.
The exuberance and sparkling elegance of Viktorina Kapitonova and Tigran Mktrchyan accompanied by pianist Alex Foaksman bring to life the Snow Queen and King’s triumphant Pas de Deux. All in sepia and crème, they move with a dreamlike sway culminating in a joyful and fanciful reunion. Some other highlights within the striking variety of dances from Duke Ellington’s upbeat and catchy Nutcracker suite include Overture with choreography by Chyrstyn Fentroy as the number explores the mystery behind The Gift as a package hangs overhead and the dancers gradually get swept away by the song. Toot Tootie Toot or Dance of the Reed Pipes with choreography by Gabriel Lorena is a brief sashaying escapade as dancers in flowing skirts strut and prance to Ellington’s light and airy rhythms enhanced by an intricate and memorable collective pose. Peanut Brittle Brigade with chorography by Haley Schwan infuses swing and other dance styles to the beat of Ellington’s bluesy composition.
Arabesque cookie or Arabian Dance with chorography by Haley Schwan, John Lam, Chyrstyn Fentroy, Paul Craig, and My’Kal Stromile, has a bustling rhythm and a retro feel as the number opens with a soloist’s fancy footwork. It has urgency, poise, and athleticism as each soloist slides in shadow to a transforming color backdrop. The Voga Vouty or Russian dance with choreography by John Lam showcases savvy and sophistication steeped in black and white as they perform a striking sequence in a spotlight. Chinoserie or Chinese Dance with choreography by Arianna Hughlett is full of mischievous and lighthearted fun as dancers creep and freestyle to the rhythm of Ellington’s chiming beat parting and uniting in shadow.
The finale culminates in a beloved Boston Ballet location worth waiting for.
The Boston Ballet’s virtual holiday treat The Gift continues through January 9 which includes behind the scenes footage. Click here for more information and access to the show.
For an interactive and engaging show like Urban Nutcracker, experiencing it online last year on its 19th anniversary offered a glimpse into its dazzling style, multi-genre music, and the unique perspective within a classic tale.
However, sitting in the Boch Center’s Shubert Theatre as Urban Nutcracker’s dynamic orchestra traveled down the aisles performing their horn-infused, big band sound on instruments stringed in colorful lights created an authentically immersive experience. This year marks Urban Nutcracker’s 20th anniversary live onstage, an innovative show that not only pays tribute to Tchaikovsky’s classic holiday tale, but to the beauty and spirit of Boston.
Click here for an interview with Tony Williams about his dance center and how the Urban Nutcracker began.
Prefaced by festive carols from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole, the enthusiastic crowd was more than ready to experience The Urban Nutcracker live and in person again and from the spontaneous cheers from the crowd, showed no sign of disappointment.
As the band settles inside a replica of the Hatch Shell above the stage amid Janie Howland’s amazing scenic design, identifiable landmarks such as the CITGO sign, Massachusetts State House, Green Monster, and Downtown Boston’s Custom House Clock Tower (which comes alive upon closer examination) are set strategically on Boston’s city skyline. The orchestra plays above the performers, delivering rich and funky rhythms inspired by a variety of music styles that match the vast array of festive, eye-popping costumes by Dustin Todd Rennels as cultures from around the world take the stage once more.
When Tchaikovsky, Duke Ellington, and David Berger come together for this eclectic score musically directed by Bill Whitney, it takes this timeless tale to the next level. Urban Nutcracker delivers a modern, sparkling, family-friendly vibe which is depicted in the show’s rich colors as a chic and contemporary apartment with a distinctive tree, glimmering cushions, and large and festive bulbs covering the windows is revealed.
What is particularly noticeable this year is the gathering. The variety of children and adults dancing and playing with their new toys as a group come together for an amazing photo with a lengthy selfie stick. The sheer joy of a houseful of children and adults enjoying each other’s company has been something dearly missed.
Horn infused jazz, hip hop, and the blues are just a few of the genres explored in this tradition meets contemporary Urban Nutcracker. It was amazing to watch the adults dance with elements of swing and ballet integrated into their steps.
Urban Nutcracker depicts all the classic scenes from Tchikovsky’s production with an inviting twist featuring a diverse, multi-talented cast. In a magnificent coat and top hat, Gianni Di Marco has more than one trick up his sleeve as captivating Drosselmeyer. He not only wows adults and children alike with tricks and presents, but his sweet interactions with Ruby including one point as the duo watch from the balcony provide some of Urban Nutcracker’s most memorable moments.
Khalid Hill returns and again masters multiple roles including a catchy break dancing, tap and toe tapping routine on the city streets as dancers synchronize beats on trash cans. Ronnie Thomas is excellent as a wiry soldier doll in bright orange and purple as he bends in incredible shapes around the stage as well in an exciting rat battle as the Nutcracker Prince.
The Snow Queen and King, portrayed by Ruth Bronwen-Whitney and Ronnie Thomas, are sophisticated and elegant gliding in a snow-covered landscape of the Boston Common surrounded by luminous snowflake dancers. Thomas also delivers a visually-rich and memorable performance in a duet with Ruth Bronwen-Whitney as Arabian dancers. Spain’s spectacular costumes glitter in a flowing flamenco dance as a bull rider dominates the background while China’s dancers are bursting with color in a spinning fan dance.
The Sugar Plum Fairy, performed by Kseniya Melyukhina and Ruth Bronwen-Whitney, has a more traditional look in lilac this year, but nonetheless stands out for a beautiful, upbeat solo and a later performance with Gianni Di Marco during a jazz-infused Nutcracker Suite.
Several lighthearted performances return to the stage including the athletic hula hoop dancers in Revere Beach with back flips included, a lively and humorous performance featuring skilled, tap-dancing workmen in hardhats and paint-splotched overalls, but a favorite performance of Urban Nutcracker’s answer to Make Way for Ducklings is endearing and heartwarming featuring Michael Oliver Slayton as a tap dancing cop and an adorable, yellow feathered troupe of ducklings led by Simone Wolfhorst.
Urban Nutcracker still offers something for everyone with a unique twist on a classic while still reminding audiences what is truly important this time of year. It is a unique and exciting Boston tribute with surprises along the way.
Tony Williams Dance Center’s Urban Nutcracker continues through December 22. Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support this organization.
Embarking on a journey from beloved local landmarks to overseas to inside the Boston Ballet studios, Boston Ballet’sreSTART amps up the excitement of their highly-anticipated return live onstage in time for the holidays.
With a versatile lineup that includes recently filmed jazz-infused contemporary dance, classic tales, traditional dance, and a season preview as well as a full range of costumes including street wear by Yin Yue and Jens Jacob Worsaae and Judanna Lynn’s spectacular royal fashion, Boston Ballet’s virtual reSTART, available through November 7, delivers an elegant and dynamic show for dance lovers everywhere. Click here for more information and for Boston Ballet’s full season.
Over the past year and a half, the renowned Boston Ballet has become much more than a force onstage. It has been inspiring to see this sophisticated and athletic company in various settings, using creative and unconventional methods to evoke their passion for their extraordinary work. Lighthearted, romantic, and refreshing, Boston Ballet’s season premiere reSTART demonstrates a brilliant new season to come.
Boston Ballet delves into a classic tale with fantasy flair featuring Soo-bin Lee and SeokJoo Kim, a stunning duo as they perform a deeply romantic Pas de Deux in an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet. Angelically adorned in a halo of ribbons and flowing gown by Song Bohwa and Hanna Kim, Lee is a vision in an idealistic dark forest. Despite a hint of foreboding, Prokofiev’s score is uplifting and glorious as Lee and Kim enchant each other building into bursts of joy, seeming to move as one into an embrace.
From classic tale to classic dance, another highlight of reSTART features Bach’s soothing, piano-driven rhythms as Addie Tapp and Lasha Khozahvili perform a tender and delicate dance as Khozahvili quite literally sweeps Tapp off her feet.
Muses take on full form as Paul Arrais beguiles inspiration as bold and fresh faced Apollo in a pivotal classic work which first brought choreographer Balanchine and composer Stravinsky together. What is particularly captivating about Balanchine’s choreography is the mechanical synchronization between muses Lia Cirio as majestic Terpsichore, Viktorina Kapitonova as mysterious and foreboding Calliope, and Chryrstyn Fentroy as jubilant and charismatic Polyhymnia. Their dance is meticulously precise as they rhythmically pivot in unison, at one point forming a beautiful silhouette until each have a chance to portray their own distinct chemistry with Arrais’s mesmerizing Apollo. They join together, hinging onto each other and one might wonder who is in control.
The Boston Ballet kicks off their new season with virtual reSTART continuing through Sunday, November 7. Click here for more information and a closer look at Boston Ballet’s new season.
2020 has made an indelible impact on our society affecting family life, schools, businesses, the arts, and the very nature in which we live. When Urban Nutcracker returned for its 19th season in 2019 and took the stage at Boch Center’s Shubert Theatre, it delivered dazzling style, live, multi-genre music, and the thrill of a classic tale with a unique perspective. It was one of the many inventive performances taking the stage at Shubert Theatre or at any venue in Boston during the holiday season.
Seeing it now evokes an air of wistfulness. Being a lover of city life in Boston for decades, seeing it now makes me long for Boston’s exciting streets, sit in the Boston Common, walk through Faneuil Hall in its crowded, bustling glory, and watch people marvel at the lights and holiday spirit of the city. Make Way for Ducklings, the Duck Boats, the Boston Harbor, live music at the Hatch Shell, and the crowds filing into Fenway Park are a memory this year. Especially at this glorious time of year, the warmth of the holidays in phenomenal Boston fills this city-lover’s mind with nostalgia and an enduring fondness for its boundless energy and heart. How it is missed.
Filmed in 2019 at the Boston’s Shubert Theatre and featuring the City Ballet of Boston, Tony Williams Dance Center’s Urban Nutcracker continues streaming for free for its 20th anniversary through Christmas Eve. Click here to see the show and more information on Tony Williams Dance Center.
The dynamic orchestra is the first to set the show’s immersive tone as they greet the setting audience traveling through the aisles playing their horn-infused, big band sound on instruments stringed in colorful lights. As the band settles inside a replica of the Hatch Shell above the stage amid Janie Howland’s amazing scenic design, identifiable landmarks such as the CITGO sign, Massachusetts State House, and Downtown Boston’s Custom House Clock Tower are set strategically on Boston’s city skyline. The orchestra plays above the performers, delivering a robust sound in a plethora of music styles that match the cornucopia of festive costumes by Dustin Todd Rennels and Rebecca Cross as cultures from around the world unite onstage.
When Tchaikovsky, Duke Ellington, and David Berger combine for the eclectic score musically directed by Bill Whitney, it is a journey of unfettered entertainment. Urban Nutcracker has a modern, relaxed, family-friendly vibe which is depicted in the show’s bright and jubilant colors, an urban-chic apartment with a distinctive tree, and the dance styles intonate a party that could happen anywhere in the city today especially as kids gather for a picture using a selfie stick.
Urban Nutcracker depicts all the classic scenes from Tchikovsky’s production with an inviting twist featuring a diverse, multi-talented cast. In a magnificent coat and top hat, Gianni Di Marco is captivating as wise, charismatic and exuberant Drosselmeyer. He not only wows adults and children alike with tricks and presents, but his sweet interactions with Ruby, portrayed by enchanting Juliet Brown and Stella Kotter, provide some of Urban Nutcracker’s most memorable moments.
Khalid Hill dazzles in multiple roles, but his tap dancing shines most on the city streets as dancers synchronize beats on trash cans. Ronnie Thomas is excellent as a funky soldier doll bouncing and coasting around the stage.
The Snow Queen and King, portrayed by Ruth Whitney and Joe Gonzalez, is the picture of elegance surrounded by luminous snowflake dancers and a glittering view of the Boston Common. Gonzalez also delivers a visually-rich and daring performance in a duet with Ruth Whitney as Arabian dancers.
Betsy Boxberger Khalil stuns as the Sugar Plum Fairy not only in a beautiful, upbeat solo but in a later performance with Joe Gonzalez and Gianni Di Marco during a jazz-infused Nutcracker Suite. The lifts themselves are spectacular.
Several fun performances included athletic hula hoop dancers featuring Kendra Frank, a high-energy performance featuring skilled, tap-dancing workmen, Urban Nutcracker’s amusing answer to Bo Peep, but Urban Nutcracker’s answer to Make Way for Duckling featuring Michael Oliver Slayton as a tap dancing cop and an adorable troupe of ducklings led by Simone Wolfhorst, is a favorite, an unforgettable and endearing performance.
Urban Nutcracker offers something for everyone without being boxed into any particular music taste while also delivering a timeless message of the season. It also pays unparallel tribute to Boston and if you are feeling nostalgic for the city, make sure to see this show.
Tony Williams Dance Center’s Urban Nutcracker continues streaming for free through Christmas Eve 2020. Click here for more information, how to access the show, and how to support this organization.
Exploring love from obsession to at first sight, Greater Boston Stage Company couldn’t have chosen a more perfect time to introduce Swan Lake, one of ballet’s most popular productions of all time, with a bold and re-imagined twist the day after Valentine’s Day.
With insightful choreography and direction by Ilyse Robbins, Greater Boston Stage Company continues Jazz Ballet Swan Lake in Blue through Sunday, March 1 at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
Jackson Jirard (center) and the cast of Swan Lake in Blue Photo by Maggie Hall Photography
Tap dancing, ballet, and classic dance just skims the surface of the sheer energy that encapsulates Swan Lake inBlue, a brilliant production that transforms Tchaikovsky’s classic fairy tale into a lively, non-stop dance spectacle with big band flair. Swan Lake in Blue has elements of that beloved classic in swan feathers, but set in thrilling 1940’s New York City.
Costume designer Kevin Hutchins and Scenic and Prop designer Teri Oakes work together to capture the mood of 1940s New York City in bowler hats, vintage suits, and colorful casual wear right down to the cast’s 40s style Oxfords.
Steve Bass not only seamlessly composed and musically directs Swan Lake in Blue, but also performs onstage with a full big band stately dressed in black and grey vintage sophistication. The rollicking live orchestra instantly sets the mood of this vibrant, non-stop musical journey. Swan Lake in Blue features an array of gloriously energetic, athletic dancers that keep the pace joyous and thriving while integrating popular dance moves of its time like the Charleston and Swing. Each dancer gets an opportunity to shine and Jackson Jirard as Ben Kelly leads this agile group of exceptional talent.
Jackson Jirard (center) with male dance auditions. Photo by Maggie Hall Photography
Jirard is magnificent as he leaps and spins audaciously in tap shoes. Andy McLeavey as Seigfried and Jirard look like naturals dancing together, especially when Mr. Seigfried is first introduced. From Mambo to the Samba to the alluring Dance of the Swans, it is a wordless piece that invites dance to take over.
Sara Coombs as Odette Photo by Maggie Hall Photography
Swan Lake in Blue preserves the classic tale but gives it a Broadway spin involving a mobster, idyllic “swans” and a love struck Broadway producer set in a dance studio. Odette, portrayed with elegance, fragility, and anguish by Sara Coombs, is a seemingly tethered soul longing for peace. Coombs flourishes in the complex dual role which balances sass and sincerity as well as compassion and malicious glee through her carefully crafted sharp and sweeping dance moves.
Sara Coombs and Andy McLeavey as charming Seigfried share some beautiful moments. David Visini captures a dark sophistication as Von Rothbart. Visini’s unsettling, sharp, and menacing dance create a mysterious and powerful charisma every time he makes an appearance.
Sara Coombs and Andy McLeavey Photo by Maggie Hall Photography
Tchaikovky’s immortalized Dance of the Swans takes on a new, alluring spin as Briana Fallon and Gillian Gordon join Coombs decked out in feathery, white fringed dresses. It’s a daring, yet fitting departure of Tchikovsky’s original dance and like the imaginative Swan Lake in Blue, includes a few winks to the original.
Greater Boston Stage Company continues Jazz Ballet Swan Lake in Blue through Sunday, March 1 at Greater Boston Stage Company at 395 Main Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets and here for more on Greater Boston Stage Company’s 20th season.
With enchanting special effects and performances that would endear any holiday pessimist, Mikko Nissinen’sThe Nutcracker once again returns with an entire world seeped in the fondest of daydreams for adults and children alike. With the enhancement of internationally-renowned Finnish lighting designer Mikki Kunttu and Tchaikovsky’s classic score conducted by Misha Santora, The Nutcracker is as picturesque as ever, emphasizing its mark as an annual holiday institution.
The 150 dancers making up ‘The Nutcracker’s’ spectacular cast. Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet
The castle on a cloud is only the prelude to an enchanting journey as Mikko Nissinen’s TheNutcracker returns to the Citizens Bank Opera House with new surprises. An elegant party, a valiant battle, and a variety of spectacular toys springing to life is just part of Clara’s exquisite journey when she is gifted an intriguing Nutcracker for Christmas.
The Boston Ballet takes the stage for Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker continuing through Sunday, December 29. The Boston Ballet features discount youth pricing. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Stage view Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
Robert Perdziola’s meticulously-detailed set and costume design not only create an inviting atmosphere whether inside a fire lit, multi-dimensional living room with a towering, emerald-lit Christmas tree or surrounding an outdoor fire pit where locals can keep warm, but also creates a pristine wintry wonderland where you can almost feel the chill. The ornate period costumes are gorgeous as women are adorned in velvet, silk, and ribbons and the men are dressed to the nines. Sweet, sophisticated, yet playful Clara, portrayed impressively by Emma Blake, is lovely in her pale blue coat, bonnet hat, and fur hand warmers.
Party scene. Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet
Christmas Eve is a magical time, especially for children. Paulo Arrais unveils some of that magic as charismatic and confident showman, Drosselmeier. Mustachioed Arrais is a grand presence as he delivers visions sprung from the imagination, showing children anything is possible.
Harlequin Doll and Ballerina Doll. Photo credit to Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet
Among the most memorable moments is a Soo-bin Lee’s convincing portrayal as a Ballerina Doll, her rigid movements out of the box a fascinating sight. Tyson Clark’s Harlequin Doll and Sun Woo Lee’s life size, exotic bear are exuberant, playful, and among the most highly- anticipated scenes in this production.
The appearance of the Nutcracker Prince, depicted by a chivalrous and gallant Derek Dunn, is extraordinary surrounded by bright, multicolored, shimmering ornaments in a magnificent tree. His appearance highlights one of the most spectacular and exciting special effects of the production that will not be revealed here. His encounter with Alec Roberts’s bold and at times humorous Mouse King is thrilling and partially what makes The Nutcracker a children’s classic.
Alec Roberts as the Mouse King and a valiant battle Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet
Seo Hye Han and Tigran Mkrtchyan are visions as The Snow Queen and King on a sparkling silver sleigh as surrounding dancers joyfully flock and frolic in a glorious scene. Seo Hye Han and Tigran Mikrtchyan have a sweet chemistry as they join together in a captivating dance.
An enchanted winter wonderland. Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet
Among the most humorous scenes is an adorable appearance by Bo Peep accompanied by a mischievous black sheep and Graham Johns as towering and surprising Mother Ginger.
Clara, portrayed by Mia Steedle, Nutcracker Prince portrayed by Tigran Mkrtchyan, and reindeer by students of Boston Ballet School Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet
Whether seeing Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker for the first time or returning to enjoy it all over again, The Boston Ballet is as elegant and magical as you remember with enough refreshing additions to endure as a splendid holiday treat for the entire family.
The Boston Ballet takes the stage for Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker continuing through Sunday, December 29 at the Citizen Bank Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. These performances feature group rates and discount youth pricing. Click here for tickets and for more information on Boston Ballet’s 2020 season.
Tony Williams, acclaimed choreographer, founder, and Artistic Director of the Urban Nutcracker and the Tony Williams Dance Center, talks about Urban Nutcracker’s humble beginnings and how it has evolved to become the hit it is today while every year featuring something new.
Founder and Artistic Director of Urban Nutcracker Tony Williams Photo courtesy of Tony Williams/City Ballet of Boston
Sleepless Critic: What I love about Urban Nutcracker is while the traditional Nutcracker is rooted in fantasy, the heart of the Urban Nutcracker is in Boston and its history. What inspired this concept?
Tony Williams: I was raised in Boston and danced in the premiere of the first major professional production of Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker conducted by famed conductor of the Boston Pops Arthur Fiedler in 1965. I danced in the traditional Nutcracker for many years and when I stopped, I still performed large and smaller productions in and around Boston.
About 20 years ago, I started my dance school in Jamaica Plain. I had two male African American dancers working for me teaching tap and hip hop. In my school’s first year of enrollment, I had about 20 boys which is a huge amount of boys than in most dance schools. I had the makings of a youth cast for a production and wanted to showcase the kids, but most of the boys came for tap and hip hop where I was teaching ballet.
I thought about putting on The Nutcracker and the parents can be involved and bring their kids. With so many traditional Nutcrackers out there, maybe we can create an urban contemporary Nutcracker with hip hop, tap, and ballet incorporating our hip hop teacher Ricardo Foster and tap teacher Khalid Hill.
Coincidentally around that time, I came across Duke Ellington’s jazzy, big band Nutcracker Suite. I can use that and mix in the traditional Nutcracker like a soup and hope it turns out right. A smaller dance troupe also performed a Nutcracker in New York City around that time. Their background was in New York City and they based the show in Central Park. I decided to freshen up this old classic chestnut, The Nutcracker, and put it in present day Boston.
Sneak Peek of the Urban Nutcracker at this year’s Boston Tree Lighting in the Boston Common Photo courtesy of Tony Williams/City Ballet of Boston
SC: It has been very successful because I believe next year will be Urban Nutcracker’s 20th anniversary in 2020.
TW: It’s amazing we’ve succeeded all of these years. We evolve, tweak, and polish the show every year and it’s a challenge financially to pull it all together. The first year we were on a shoestring budget.
People have supported the show all of these years and I feel fortunate it is still around. Not so much for my personal ego, but for the opportunity to have it for the City of Boston. You don’t have to know Boston in order to like the show but if you do, you will have more of a connection to it.
SC: You feature some traditional and international roots in the Urban Nutcracker such as The Russian Dance.
TW: We have the Russian Dance which we call Caviar Caper, the Arabian Dance we call Desert Chiffon, and the Chinese or Tea Dance which we call Ginseng Brise. Brise is the French word for a dance step in ballet.
This year, we have a major addition to Act II and one of the divertissements will be based on the story, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey from 1941. We introduced ducks in the snow scene in the past and it didn’t quite fit. This year we are calling it Mrs. Mallard and her Duckling Delights with a tap dancing policeman and Mother Duck will dance on Pointe. The cute baby ducks have their own dance which the kids will love.
We’re doing a new Russian dance with two couples and many more surprises!
Urban Nutcracker cast Photo courtesy of Tony Williams/City Ballet of Boston
SC: How did this become a tradition? The reception must have been extraordinary that first year.
TW: The first year we were trying to introduce this new creation was right after 911 and the whole world was in a depression. A friend of mine told me it wasn’t the time to do this kind of show and I thought about that.
I was sad about what had happened, but working with the young kids brought about a rebirth of hope and I continue the show because of them. We did three sold out performances the first year at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester.
I was so nervous that first night and had no idea how it would be received. We had no money or advertisements except a great story in the Globe. From the opening dance in the prologue right before the story line began, the dancers and musicians in Downtown Crossing and Quincy Market danced outside with their hats out for donations. The ovation was so loud and that’s when we knew we had something.
SC: I understand that the show features The City Ballet of Boston. Is that your troupe?
TW: It used to be the Tony Williams Ballet Company, but last year it evolved into the non-profit City Ballet of Boston. The core group is comprised of eight cohesive adult professional dancers that have been with me for the second year. It is expected we have top notch professional dancers at the Shubert Theatre which is partly why I did that with the company. I call it City Ballet of Boston because we are proud of Boston. Hopefully, when I am no longer around, The CBB will be able to produce this show for generations to come.
A woman who happens to work at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre came for the first time last year and brought her three year old daughter while her husband was away on business. Her parents were visiting from Chicago and the four of them came to the show. She told me afterwards she really enjoyed the show, but was struck that her daughter, father, and mother were so raptly attentive to the show as well. Each generation enjoyed it!
SC: What are your future plans?
TW: We have the family production, Peter and the Wolf from April 29 to May 2, 2020 at the Calderwood Pavilion. We’ve been doing some classical and contemporary pieces and it will be something for everybody.
SC: You tend to mix contemporary with traditional dance.
TW: I do it because it is intriguing creatively, artistically, and it’s fun to work that way.
SC: That way you can keep surprising people with your work.
TW: I need to do something fresh not only for the audience and the dancers, but I get a charge out of that too.
Urban Nutcracker returns to the Boch Center Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Thursday, December 19 through Saturday, December 28. Click here for more information, tickets, and learn more about Tony Williams and his work.
During Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, The Prince, portrayed masterfully by Patrick Yocum, gentlemanly gestures for Cinderella to go first as they make their entrance and she in turn motions for him to go first. It is a subtle gesture, but holds great significance. It is just one moment in many that this Cinderella exudes pure selflessness, more so than other adaptations. We can all learn from Cinderella. She’ll make a lasting impression and is a shining example of what every child should strive to become.
Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, performed by the Boston Ballet, continues through Saturday, June 8 at the Citizens Bank Boston Opera House. Click here for more information and for tickets. Click here for a closer look at the production.
The Boston Ballet’s Cinderella is an ethereal, lighthearted tale, told with a richness that far exceeds a glittering gown and glass slippers. David Walker’s multi-layered, translucent scenic design and elaborate costumes create moving portraits from deep into an enchanted forest to a sophisticated royal ball.
It is a classic fairy tale about a young girl living with her father and two ugly Stepsisters. When a mysterious woman shows up on their doorstep, it may change Cinderella’s life forever. This adaptation has the earmarks of the popular fairy tale including the pumpkin, the royal ball, fairy godmother, and the handsome prince.
Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet
Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella also contains a few slight alternations from other popular adaptations and it is all the better for it starting with Vikorina Kapitonova’s marvelous portrayal as Cinderella. Even in a soot-covered, flowing costume, Kapitonova’s glowing face shines through as she jaunts around the house, with only a broom as her companion. She soaks in her surroundings, her exuberance shown through the simplest of things. She puts joy in every step, rarely showing any despair in her strength, warmth, and innocent smile. Cinderella may be neglected, but she’s also happy and imaginative, despite her circumstances.
Absent is the anguish and vindictiveness Cinderella endured from the glaring presence of a Stepmother in other retellings, but instead a harried father tending to the constant needs of two trying Stepsisters. What makes this Cinderella so remarkable is she is not bullied by her Stepsisters, but that much more selfless, doing everything for the ease of others, always putting others first with a smile. She tends to her Stepsisters needs out of love, a self-absorbed pair of braying bookends, portrayed with awkward, conceited flair by Roddy Doble and John Lam. In full bonnets and mismatched, heavily adorned attire, the Stepsisters comically parade in their gaudy and audacious glory, unaware of how foolish they seem.
Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella’s choreography is an elegant display. The Fairy Godmother makes a grand, magical entrance and is soon accompanied by the colorful Fairies of the Four Seasons. They each have their moment to shine, their beautiful solos reflecting their distinct personalities on lush green and then under silvery trees.
In white and blue, Patrick Yocum, who was also impressive in Boston Ballet’s Full on Forsythe, makes a wonderful Prince, leading Kapitonova to a delicate pas de deux. Their sweet chemistry is apparent as Cinderella makes her own grand entrance. Another captivating dance occurs at the ball as the clock strikes midnight, the dancers intricately posing in that pivotal moment knowing the best is soon to come.
One of the interactive stations at Boston Ballet’s ‘The Warm Up’ Photo by Jeanne Denizard
Mikko Nissinen’s Boston Ballet continues to offer a number of interactive stations including Fairy tale Fun and a photo-friendly display to learn more about the show and ballet through The Warm Up located in the lower lobby.
Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, performed by the Boston Ballet, continues through Saturday, June 8 at the Citizen’s Bank Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Save 50% for youth under 17 after purchasing one full price ticket. Click here for more information, tickets, and for future events and more, follow Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.
With all that Full on Forsythe has to offer, it is easy to forget any preconceived notions one may have about the ballet. The Boston Ballet takes on a wide variety of classic productions such as Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, as well as the upcoming performances of Cinderella in May and Coppelia starting March 21. Yes, ballet is steeped in tradition, but Full on Forsythe adds a bold, modern dimension to dance and this version is unconfined by any assumptions.
Boston Ballet in William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet
The Boston Ballet continues Full on Forsythe at the Boston Opera House through Sunday, March 17. The Boston Ballet also recently announced a tour of Full on Forsythe in Paris next month. The production is divided into three parts with two intermissions. Click here for more information and tickets.
From catchy R&B to electronica to soul, acclaimed choreographer William Forsythe showcases a modern spin to the Boston Ballet’s signature moves creating fascinating visual portraits. Songs were taken from James Blake’s album, The Colour in Anything, including I Need a Forest Fire, I Hope My Life, and F.O.R.E.V.ER., music by Dutch composer Thom Willems, and music from popular R&B singers such as Khalid, Barry White, and Natalie Cole.
Lithe, athletic solo dancer Chyrstyn Fentroy kicked off this joyful, haunting, and romantic music journey with last year’s Pas/Parts 2018 in a dual colored leotard as dancers gradually multiplied. The industrial, tribal feel of Thom Willems music as dancers shift in shadows create a haunting intensity. The dancers spin and swing like part of seamless machine, hitting every last eccentric beat.
Patrick Yocum Boston Ballet in William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP); photo by Angela Sterling; courtesy of Boston Ballet
There are quite a few extended solos including Lasha Khozashvili, Sao Hye Han, Patrick Yokum, Issac Akiba, Ji Young Chae, Daniel Cooper, Patric Palkins, and Lia Cirio who all capture an intensity within the music and pulsing rhythm, depicting an myriad of exciting dance moves. Whether in a duet or solo, Patrick Yocum is a particularly wonderful dancer, soulful and charismatic each time he takes the stage. Click here for a closer look at the company.
Lia Cirio and Viktorina Kapitonova in William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP); photo by Angela Sterling; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Blake Works I offers a more intimate, romantic display, but also has its share of subtle and humorous moments, especially within the duets. Pairs Ji Young Chae and Seo Hye Han, Lia Cirio and Patric Palkens, and Jessica Burrows and Patrick Yocum have a great chemistry together as they entwine in each other’s arms in a part interpretive dance. At one point Patric Palken attempts to lift Lia, but she teasingly denies him before she joins him. It is a subtle moment, but it depicts the sweet chemistry and joy between the two.
Roddy Doble, Patrick Yocum, and Hannah Bettes in William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet
The Boston Ballet is revered for its beautiful performances, but what sets Full on Forsythe apart is its universal appeal. The Boston Ballet’s must-see Full on Forsythe leads the audience on an enthralling, unique, and beautiful music journey that concludes on a jubilant, mesmerizing note.
The Boston Ballet continues to offer an opportunity to learn more about ballet through The Warm Up, an interactive, photo-friendly display located in the lower lobby.
The Boston Ballet continues Full on Forsythe at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, March 17. They also recently announced a tour of Full on Forsythe in Paris next month. Click here for more information and tickets. For future events and more, follow Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.