Amaya Rodriguez & Liang Fu. Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Review: THE NUTCRACKER at Kansas City Ballet
By Abigail Trabue
THE NUTCRACKER is as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus and his red nosed reindeer friend, so it’s always a challenge for Ballet companies to keep audiences engaged and coming back year after year when there are so many productions to be found.
In 2015 Kansas City Ballet did just that by asking us to “Imagine Again” as they completely overhauled their yearly NUTCRACKER production. With an all new creative design by internationally known designers and new choreography by KC Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney, THE NUTCRACKER has vividly come back to life for the holidays. Having seen the 2015 production and now the 2016 production, I can sincerely say this overhaul was worth every penny and is just as fresh and enjoyable this year as it was last.
What makes this production work — aside from the joyful stirrings of Tchaikovsky’s score beautifully brought to life by the Kansas City Symphony — is the immediate knowledge that children on stage and off are the focus of the evening, but we, the adults, are not forgotten. There are plenty of opportunities for us to escape back to childhood and relish in the possibilities of imagination and the magic of the season. Carney uses every excuse to bring children into this world without sacrificing any of the breathtaking artistry his company of dancers bring to the stage.
Dancers like Liang Fu (Sugar Plum Fairy’s Cavalier), who covers space with astonishing grace and power. Angelina Sansone and Thom Panto (Snow Queen and King) have a gentle intensity that encouraged the dancers around them to rise to their level.
But the evening really belongs to Amaya Rodriguez (Sugar Plum Fairy), who has the kind of grace and ease that feels like watching a soft ripple spread over a lake with gentle strength and purpose. Rodriguez is everything the Sugar Plum Fairy should be, and she and Fu are so well partnered. Watching them is mesmerizing. As soon as Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous Pas de Deux starts, it’s over, and you wish you could hit rewind and watch them all over again. They are just that good.
Supporting Carney’s choreography are costumes by Holly Hynes that have just the right amount of sparkle, just the right amount of pastel, and just the right amount of tulle to fulfill all our Nutcracker wishes. But what I really loved about Hynes’s costumes are how well they worked with Alain Vaës’ stunning Victorian parlor and candy land world. It’s a beautiful blend and you can see the thoughtfulness and partnership that exists between NUTCRACKER’s set and costumes.
With a running time of two hours, the Kansas City Ballet’s THE NUTCRACKER hits all its marks and holds the attention of young and old. Go, enjoy, and allow yourself to “imagine again” for years to come.