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Ballet Arizona’s new

KBAQ, by Chris Curcio

“THE NUTCRACKER,” Ballet Arizona, Symphony Hall, Phoenix, AZ
Air Date: Monday, December 11, 2005

Ballet Arizona new “The Nutcracker” transports the company into the big leagues of major American dance companies with its breathtakingly beautiful, dazzlingly danced, and magical production crafted brilliantly by the company’s creative artistic director Ib Andersen.

The $1.8 million production is Andersen’s inspiration and he reconceives Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet that has become the holiday staple of ballet companies world-wide. The huge cost shows in the stunning scenic designs that are enhanced by superb lighting, fascinating projections, and elaborately colorful costumes. Andersen has incorporated diverse choreography, clever touches, and interesting focal points but always with a nod toward the ballet’s established traditions to make the familiar story an enchanting tale of Clara’s Christmas Eve dream with her new toy nutcracker.

As she rests with her new toy, Clara falls under the nutcracker’s spell as her home’s Christmas tree grows to gigantic size and her dream takes her to the battle between the toy soldiers and the Mouse King.

Here, Andersen incorporates some magical effects and turns the mice back into the furry creatures that actually look like the rodents they represent.

As the first act ends, Clara is on her way to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. At the intermission, the sold-out opening night audience was in awe at the lovely production, but what impressed me most is the exemplary dancing of Andersen’s intricate and spirited choreography.

The second act transports the audience to the magical land where a series of specialty routines allow Andersen to show off his company’s brilliance with superbly executed and fascinating takes on each dance that entertains Clara and her accompanying Prince. Each routine is great with the culminating brilliant pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier featuring the exquisite Paola Hartley and the athletically astonishing Astrit Zejnati doing a never-ending series of lovely and exciting dancing.

Each astonishing dancer deserves mention for they all performed with perfection and style. The stunning production is heightened by the brilliant playing of the beautiful score by the Phoenix Symphony under the expert baton of Timothy Russell. Even the children’s dancing from young ballet students is masterful perfection in the new staging.

It was some evening Saturday night. My companion had always hated the mediocre productions of “The Nutcracker” he had seen previously, but he fell in love with this beautiful and dazzlingly danced production. Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker” earns five stars out of five and continues through December 27. For KBAQ, I’m Chris Curcio.