Tony Williams Dance Center’s ‘Urban Nutcracker’ an immersive heartfelt letter to Boston in 2020

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.

Nutcracker Prince portrayed by Tony Tucker battles Haissen Booth as the Rat King Photo credit to Peter Paradise Michaels/Urban Nutcracker

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. 

Gianni Di Marco as Drosselmeyer and Juliet Brown as Ruby and the cast Photo credit to Peter Paradise Michaels/Urban Nutcracker

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.

REVIEW: Boston Ballet’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is a regal, dazzling achievement

An unexpected hero, an insulted fairy, true love, and a terrible curse make up the enchanting and haunting fairy tale classic as Boston Ballet proudly presents The Sleeping Beauty.  Unfolding with elegant and athletic choreography by Marius Pepita and Sir Frederick Ashton, The Sleeping Beauty has returned to Boston for a limited run by popular demand through Saturday, May 19 at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a closer look at more of Boston Ballet’s upcoming performances.

A full house including a wealth of excited children gathered inside the Boston Opera House as Ming Luke conducted Tchaikovsky’s famous and dramatic music score, transporting the enthusiastic crowd into a world of royalty, betrayal, innocence, a few familiar fairy tale faces, and a dose of magic.  Disney’s popular animated adaptation possesses a few similarities to this captivating tale, but Boston Ballet delivers more to the story.  At the center of The Sleeping Beauty was raven-haired Lia Cirio as regal and elegant Princess Aurora, a triumph of athletic grace, her limber body mastering a few of ballet’s most difficult dance moves with impeccable balance, an arabesque garnering particular applause.

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Lia Cirio and Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

Based on Russia’s Imperial Ballet’s 1890 production, The Sleeping Beauty is a visual treat, boasting finely-detailed costumes and a multi-dimensional set design by David Walker.  From ornate, lush and colorful backdrops in gold, red, and green to the enchanting Renaissance era costumes, each scene is a portrait to behold.  Wearing wreathed tiaras and dressed in sparkling pink, green, yellow, and blue, the gracious fairies made up of Dawn Atkins, So Jung Lee, Maria Baranova, Maria Alvarez, and Emily Entingh floated, frolicked, and twirled, each displaying their own unique personalities.  The energetic yellow fairy was a particular highlight, performing a sweet, joyful, and humorous dance.

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Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

With a cruel, mocking laugh and appearing in a dark, glimmering carriage was Dalay Parrondo as treacherous Carabosse.  Accompanied by a group of monstrous henchmen performed by Tyson Clark, Derek Drillon, August Generalli, and Christian Pforr, Dalay delivered an electrifying performance as an insulted fairy in a haunting display of sharp, rigid movements.

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Kathleen Breen Combes and Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s uplifting score hit a crescendo as Rachel Buriassi appeared as the Lilac Fairy.  In this adaptation, she acted as a guide, her quick thinking and courage setting her apart.  Her skillful performance was most evident among her lively, energetic lilac fairy attendants in a glorious display of fouettes, plies, and pirouettes.  She was also impressive in a compelling scene with Lasha Khozashvilli as Prince Desire.  Lia Cirio as Aurora and Lasha Khozashvili as Prince Desire had instant chemistry and perfectly complemented each other in a dream-like dance, swept up in love.

The Sleeping Beauty delivers many magnificent performances within this large cast, many taking on multiple roles.  From a fascinating, thrilling duet from Maria Alvarez as Little Red Riding Hood and Alexander Maryianowski as the Wolf to a humorous, feline flirtation from Emily Entingh as The White Cat and Irlan Silva as Puss ‘N Boots, many beloved fairy tale characters took the stage in a joyous celebration.

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With two intermissions, The Boston Ballet also offers an opportunity to learn more about ballet through The Warm Up, an interactive, photo friendly display located in the lower lobby.   Boston Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty through Saturday, May 19 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for more information and follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter and Facebook.

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REVIEW: Moving and visually stunning, ‘Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis’ took flight in Boston

The richest beauty comes from a striking, beloved bird as The Boch Center Shubert Theatre debuted the Shanghai Dance Theatre’s ethereal and historical tale, Soaring Wings:  Journey of the Crested Ibis in Boston from January 11 and 12.   The show is part of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China and has been touring all over the world since 2014.  A few of Image China’s featured past performances include The Legend of Mulan, Confucius Dragon Boat Racing, and the Peking Opera.  Click here for more information about Boch Center’s upcoming events.

Soaring Wings, January 11-12, 2018 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre (11)

Crested Ibis Photo courtesy of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China

With elements similar to Tchaikovsky’s Swan LakeSoaring Wings is a majestic celebration of nature’s harmony with man and how delicate that relationship can be.  From harp-infused, mystical rhythms and horn-infused intensity composed by Guo Sida to the distinct, elegant choreography by Tong Ruirui, Soaring Wings delivers a stunning portrait of love, camaraderie, and what comes of neglect in a tree-lined utopia.

Soaring Wings, January 11-12, 2018 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre (13)

Courtesy of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China

Written by Luo Huaizhen, directed by Ton Ruirui, and starring Zhu Jiejing and Wang Jiajun, Soaring Wings is part love story, part environmental awareness, and part historical account of the Crested Ibis, China’s sacred bird of good fortune, from its first appearance centuries ago to what has become of them today.  The simple and beautiful setting under a low hanging, multi-branched tree entangled with a mist covered lake is a vision to behold and prefaces the grace and charm of these spectacular birds as a group of explorers look on.  Wearing intricately detailed, lacy costumes accented by a feather plume and dainty red slippers, the dancers move in simultaneous elegance.   They joyfully chirp, prance, float, twinkle, and expressively cock their head while outstretching their wide, magnificent wings under streaming, multi-colored lights.

Soaring Wings, January 11-12, 2018 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre (7)

The ‘flock’ of Crested Ibis Photo courtesy of China Arts and Entertainment’s Image China

Zhu Jijng and Wang Jiajun possess an instant, sweet fascination with each other as man and bird.  Their intimate dance and the radiant joy they exude from each other is a captivating centerpiece of the performance.  Divided into three parts, the stark contrast between the warmth and jarring indifference that develops in its characters and the symbolic relevance of a floating, single feather drives this altruistic tale.  As visually stunning as its universal message, Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis embodies the power of kindness and the importance of harmony in an ever changing world.

Click here for more information about China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China and here for more about Boch Center’s upcoming events.

 

Sting, John Mellencamp, Natalie Merchant, and ‘Jaws’ part of Tanglewood’s summer season

What does an underwater predator and an alien paired with Mozart, Mahler, Sondheim, and some of the biggest names in music have in common?  They are arriving at Tanglewood this summer.

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John Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris,and Carlene Carter perform in Tanglewood July 1 Courtesy of BSO Publicity photo

Overlooking stunning views in the Berkshires, the Koussevitzky Music Shed will once again deliver a wide variety of entertainment on Tanglewood’s stage.  Featuring legendary music guests such as Sting, Diana Ross, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor and more, Tanglewood’s season kicks off with renowned BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a performance of Mahler Symphony No. 2, Resurrection on Friday, July 7.  The season concludes with The Boston Pops featuring Melissa Etheridge on Sunday, September 3.  Performances are held at Koussevitzky Music Shed in Lenox, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and further information.

As the Boston Pops season celebrates the movie magic of acclaimed composer John Williams, Tanglewood delivers a few gems from this year’s Boston Pops season. That underwater predator is none other than Jaws as Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops in John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score live along with the film screening.  Directed by Steven Spielberg, Jaws in Concert arrives just before summer on Sunday, June 18.  Celebrating its 25th anniversary, another Spielberg classic getting the screening live with orchestra treatment is E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert on Friday, August 25.  Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops will perform the Academy award-winning score by John Williams.

 

Just a few of  the celebrity music guests taking the Tanglewood stage are Diana Ross, John Mellencamp, Natalie Merchant, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, as well as Four Voices which includes The Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Best-selling author and humorist David Sedaris will share his insights and his new book, Theft by Finding in his Tanglewood debut on Sunday, August 20.

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Four Voices: Joan Baez, Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter perform on Saturday, June 17 Photo courtesy of the BSO

A number of audience favorites will also return such as five time Grammy award-winner James Taylor, John Williams’ Film Night, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Tanglewood on Parade, and Tanglewood Family Concert where attendees under age 18 are free.

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The Legendary Diana Ross performs on Wednesday, August 30 Photo courtesy of Al Watson/BSO

Throughout the season, Tanglewood offers a wide array of classical works from Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, and much more.   Located at 297 West Street in Lenox, Massachusetts, the Tanglewood season also includes special music presentations with Underscore FridaysTicket packages are available and attendees under age 40 can get tickets for just 20 dollars.  Click here for further details. Click here for the entire Tanglewood schedule and tickets or call SymphonyCharge at 1-888-266-1200.  Like Tanglewood Music Festival on Facebook for all the latest updates.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s brilliantly compelling ‘Artifact’

World-renowned choreographer William Forsythe, dressed in a baseball cap and modest attire, addressed an eager, mesmerized audience in a post-show talk with Boston Ballet’s acclaimed Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen after the evening performance of William Forsythe’s Artifact on Saturday, March 25.  Mikko Nissinen introduced Forsythe with enthusiasm and said that working with him has been a lifelong dream fulfilled.  William Forsythe and Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen have a five-year partnership, working together to establish each season’s performances, highlighting one of Forsythe’s exceptional works each year.

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The Boston Ballet Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Friendly and unassuming, Forsythe spoke about his beautifully-unconventional production, Artifact, a piece he created over 30 years ago and a work that audiences and critics alike have embraced ever since.  Veiled on the Boston Opera House stage and enhanced with minimal props, lies a complex, timeless, and thought-provoking masterpiece which makes a powerful statement on the essence of the art of ballet.  Shown in its full length, Forsythe revised Artifact’s finale specifically for the Boston Ballet, which is a thrilling, compelling spectacle that blends classical and contemporary dance in a unique way.

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Boston Ballet presents ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s Artifact through Sunday, March 5 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Take a closer look at William Forsythe’s Artifact here.

Blending humor, philosophy, drama, and a wide range of traditional and contemporary ballet, William Forsythe’s Artifact, since the show was introduced, set a significant precedent in the inspiring works that followed.  A production packed with a wide range of welcome surprises, each distinct character offers their own insight into this mysterious tale.  Featuring a shimmering backdrop that matched the majestic, glittering black gown worn by Dana Caspersen, a statuesque woman in grey portrayed by Caralin Curcio, and a dapper, yet frustrated older man with megaphone portrayed by Nicholas Champion, Artifact is an intensely fascinating work from its start.

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Raina Sawai as Woman in Gray and Nicholas Champion as Man with Megaphone

Caspersen’s performance is  full of jubilance and inquisitiveness from the moment she welcomed the audience with a peerless smile.  Curcio delivers a haunting, athletic, and captivating non-verbal performance, her movements sharp, poised, and vigorous while she appears in unexpected places.  Dignified and authoritative, Champion’s dynamic performance boasts comedic moments, especially in his interaction with Caspersen.  While Champion’s musings are incomprehensible and muffled, Caspersen’s seem philosophical and poetic.

Artifact, divided into four parts like a symphony, features piano by Margot Kazimirska and delves into a full range of emotions as the piano seems to have a mind of its own, often breaking convention.  The music, featuring J.S. Boch: Chaconne from Partita Nr. 2 BWV 1004 in D-Minor by Nathan Milstein, Sound Collage by William Forsythe, and music from composer and pianist Eva Crossman-Hecht, progresses from playful to somber then frantic to rhythmic.

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Sao Hye Han and Paul Craig in William Forsythe’s ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Dressed in rich, vibrant color and launching into choreography ranging from romantic and sweeping to freestyle to stiff and regimented, the Boston Ballet often break convention under the direction of Curcio.  A few of the highlights are ballet dancers breaking away into romantic, sweeping duets as they spin, sway, and soar.  With a verbal countdown, they perform intrinsic dance combinations such as a row of dancers drop to the floor in unison, embracing.  Another thrilling highlight is the ballet directs the curtain to lift and close, creating snapshots of various, choreographed scenes.  As Artifact culminates into an unpredictable, uplifting, and magnificent finale, unified dancers are as mesmerizing as the dancers breaking away into frantic, dynamic arrangements, performing pirouettes to a wild rhythm, blossoming into a new entity.

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Seo Hye Han and the Boston Ballet in ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter.

The Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season boasts masterful works such as Kylian/Wings of Wax from March 23 through April 2, Robbins/The Concert from May 5 through May 27, Obsidian Tear from November 3 through November 12, and the return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from November 24 through December 31, 2017.  Click here for a closer look at all of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season highlights.

The Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s thrilling ‘Artifact,’ part of their 2017-18 season

On Thursday, February 23, the Boston Ballet begins another magnificent spring season and simultaneously launches a five-year partnership with brilliant dancer and world-renowned choreographer, William Forsythe. As part of Forsythe’s five-year partnership, William Forsythe and Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen work together to establish each season’s performances, highlighting one of Forsythe’s stunning works each year.

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Choreographer William Forsythe and Misa Kuranaga in rehearsal for Artifact; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

William Forsythe’s full length masterpiece, Artifact, a revelation in the art of dance and has thrilled audiences since its stage premiere in 1984.  Artifact continues through Sunday, March 5 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Take a closer look at William Forsythe’s Artifact here.

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Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Yocum, William Forsythe’s Artifact; © Rachel Neville

The Boston Ballet boasts a monumental lineup for its 2017-18 season including timeless romantic classics such as Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty from April 28 to May 27, 2017 and John Cranko’s Romeo & Juliet from March 15 through April 8, 2018.  This season is also filled with masterful works such as Kylian/Wings of Wax from March 23 through April 2, Robbins/The Concert from May 5 through May 27, Obsidian Tear from November 3 through November 12, and the return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from November 24 through December 31, 2017.  Click here for a closer look at all of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season highlights.

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter!