Tag Archive: pointe


The head of BBC Worldwide Productions had two obsessions that she wanted to explore. One was ballet. The other was a convent. In a six-show reality series, Jane Tranter, the head of BBC Worldwide Productions, uses Ballet West to explore themes from both, including fierce competition, stealthy secrecy and an aura of the unattainable.

Enter “Breaking Pointe,” a short show that follows dancers from the Ballet West company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rebecca Milzoff of the New York Times wrote about the show, noting the very CW-ish production style of soap-opera vibes and an edgy score. The first few minutes of the initial episode do put juicy drama and relationships (and somewhat stilted dialogue) front and center, but the show certainly seems worth a look for bunheads.

And the good news is you can watch it for free online! Head over here for the goods. Happy streaming!

It might not be an animated movie about a love story between two garden gnomes, but Russian National Ballet Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Chopiniana” was pretty awesome. Check out my coverage of the concert in the Rebel Yell, the student newspaper for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Happy reading!

The Vegas Nutcracker season was wrapped up and topped with a bow by NBT’s rendition, performed at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre from Dec. 17 to 26.  The ballet was choreographed by Peter Anastos and displayed a commendable balance of visual razzle-dazzle and simplicity in its production and choreography. The company, under the artistic direction of James Canfield, was well-polished and the students, from the Nevada Ballet Theatre Academy, did a very respectable job.

Anastos’ choreography contributed a revitalizing energy to a show that has been performed by NBT for 29 years. The production quality, from lighting  (by Nicholas Cavallaro, executed by Peter Jakubowski) to costuming and sets by A. Christina Giannini, was excellent. The theatrical nature demanded by Peter Tchaikovsky’s iconic score was beautifully presented in the dramatic red, black and gold theater.

For those already familiar with the story of Clara and her beloved nutcracker doll, there were few surprises. The story began with Clara (Leigh Hartley) and her brother Fritz (Benjamin Blomquist and Gene Mesheryakov) joining their parents for a festive party in honor of the season. Children and adults alike danced in turn, with both groups embodying the rosy-cheeked holiday spirit.

NBT’s version featured several notable sections in the party scene. The children performed a garland dance, May-pole style, in the middle, and their sliding chasses were a credit to their training. Spirited characters like Clara’s grandparents (Jamey Gallagher and Tara Foy) added a good measure of humor.

Drosselmeyer (Marcus Bugler), the magician that presented Clara and the other children with the nutcracker doll (Griffin Whiting) mechanical mouse (Aimee Schleimer and Ariel Triunfo) and ballerina doll (Betsy Lucas and Kelly Callahan), was properly dramatic and set the magical aspect of the story into motion.

After the battle scene between the Mouse King (Anthony Paparelli), white mice (played by children and an NBT addition to the original) and the Nutcracker Prince, the prince took Clara on a journey to the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets.

This is where the meaty dancing comes in. Fierce snowflakes in the Kingdom of Snow, coupled with the commanding presence of the Snow King and Queen (Jeremy Bannon-Neches and Sarah Fuhrman), did justice to Anastos’ regal and flurry-ful choreography. Strong technique was evident in seamless  turns and extension, fluid partnering and Bannon-Neches’ grand pirouettes. The “snow” falling onto the dancers was a nice theatrical touch.

Fog and the demur bourreeing of angels en pointe heralded Clara and Co.’s arrival in the Land of the Sweets. Alissa Dale’s Sugar Plum Fairy, with neat footwork and elastic port de bras,  shimmered in an iridescent purple tutu. With her Cavalier (Grigori Arakelyan) beside her, she introduced the rest of the delectable treats heralding from the Land of the Sweets.

Each of the national dances was distinct, lending (if you will kindly pardon the pun) unique flavors with each variation. Another sweet addition came with the miniature corps, small both in terms of size and in terms of stature: Young ballet students constituted a supporting cast for each of their full-sized counterparts, scuttling around as travel-sized Spanish chocolate, French marzipan and the like.

The second act also featured some NBT innovations that made nice addenda to the original. Pint-sized bakers assembled a three-tiered cake and salt water taffy sailors bounced buoyantly with aquatic-themed props.

The Dewdrop Fairy (Krista Baker) and her company of flowers glimmered as a high point in the act. The dancers were clad in flouncing romantic tutus in a pink gradient and looked appropriately like gumdrops, albeit graceful ones, with spidery limbs. Developes en menage, coupled with the skirts, created a particularly striking visual and Baker’s controlled suspension and pristine fouette turns were not to be discounted.

The grand pas de deux that led into the finale of the show was a revitalizing, candy-coated affair. Anastos’ choreography entailed a good measure of both solo sections and unison, allowing the audience to see the individual personalities of the variations before wrapping the entire thing up neatly. Dale’s Sugar Plum, backed by her Arakelyan Cavalier, again directed the proceedings. With a partnered quadruple pirouette to a picturesque arabesque, she was the beautiful bow on top.

City Ballet of San Diego, along with ballet students from Reno and Las Vegas, brought Sugar Plum and Co. to the Theatre for the Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood on Dec. 4.

As far as Vegas shows go, this was a step in a different direction. A company other than Nevada Ballet Theatre was onstage in pointe shoes and, contrary to the unwritten Vegas Code, there was an intermission. It juxtaposed the uber-production mode of the city as well, replacing figurative (and literal) smoke and mirrors with classically painted sets.

City Ballet performed very respectably, with smoothly produced acts and eye-catching dancing. The polished company was backed by ballet students from Jill Mattson’s Classical Ballet in Reno and the Rock Center for Dance and Henderson International School in Las Vegas.

Having the children and teenagers onstage alongside a professional company was one of the sweetest parts of the show. Coupled with toddlers in the audience in Christmas dresses and shiny shoes, it brought a classic holiday feel to this snowless city.

The classic storyline essentially stayed the same, with a fresh-faced Clara falling in love with her Nutcracker doll and taking a journey to the Kingdoms of Snow and Sweets. City Ballet embodied each role well, with demur, waltzing flowers, fiendish mice, dynamic Spanish divas and a long-legged dancer that performed the Arabian variation with captivating pliability.

The children in the party scene, comprised of Jill Mattson’s students, held up their end of the deal with bouncing choreography and age-appropriate hand-games and giggles. Kids from the Rock stepped in as cavalry and soldiers to fend off mice, further adding to the “cute” factor.

The Chinese variation, although only about a minute long, was performed energetically, backed by a ribbon-bearing corps from Jill Mattson’s Classical Ballet. Madame Ginger, with a skirt full of bon-bons from the Rock Center for Dance, featured a nicely coordinated corps of munchkins that was well received by the audience.

Aerial cartwheels and double fans made the Russian variation particularly dynamic and contrasted nicely with the fluffy emboites of the Reed Flutes. The Snowflakes in the Kingdom of Snow scene embodied the best of a ballet corps with excellent timing and symmetrical lines.

As far as classical variations go, Tara Formanek as Rose in “Waltz of the Flowers” and Ariana Samuelsson as the Sugar Plum Fairy shone through. The two each lent a sense of ease to their roles, an absolute necessity for strong classical ballet. Samuelsson especially displayed beautiful technique, demonstrating floating pirouettes and arcing extension with a yawning sense of effortlessness.

On the whole, Vegas doing “The Nutcracker” is an interesting scenario. Teenagers in Vans were interspersed throughout the audience (although that could arguably happen anywhere) and hearing Tchaikovsky playing outside the theater alongside jingling slot machines was, well, unique. If this is to become a tradition, a few things could be modified: having the Planet Hollywood venue added to the ambience of the show, but the $60-$90 ticket price and the one-night deal could be a bit off-putting for some.

However, giving aspiring dancers an opportunity to perform with a professional company is an experience that should be repeated and the producers could certainly do worse than City Ballet. Next time, if there is one, it would be nice to have the here for longer than one performance.

What do these four companies have in common? They performed together in “An Unprecedented Event,” a collaborative concert tribute to the late, great Robert Joffrey.

The show was hosted by Nevada Ballet Theatre at UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on Oct. 15 – 17.

It was wonderfully unpredictable and unspeakable gorgeous.

Interested in reading more? Check out my mild-mannered alter ego on the website for The Rebel Yell, the official student newspaper for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Comments? Questions? Leave ‘em here.

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