Pictured: KCB Dancer Lamin Pereira. Photographer: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
By Abigail Trabue
For five seasons now, Kansas City has enjoyed a reimagined “Nutcracker” overflowing with childhood wonder and holiday joy, a production uniquely our own and one that should be at the top of every Christmas in Kansas City to-do list.
Divinely danced in lush costumes by Holly Hynes on Allan Vaës’ set that makes no apology for a second act which takes place in the Land of the Sweets, Kansas City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” only gets better with time. So much of that is due to Artistic Director and Choreographer Devon Carney. He has revitalized “The Nutcracker” and through his vision and guidance, has also revitalized the Kansas City Ballet.
We now have a company of dancers at the peak of their artistic talents, and I’m not talking one or two dancers, I’m talking about the entire company. Catch the “Nutcracker” on any given date, and you won’t be disappointed. I may have been there for the opening, but I’d come back for a Wednesday matinee, a Friday night, or a Sunday afternoon because the company is that good.
As Dr. Drosselmeier, Lamin Pereira may have the best role in the entire show, and possibly my favorite scene, which is saying something since I live 364 days out of the year for the grand pas de deux. I adore what Carney has done with the opening number, giving us a glimpse into Drosselmeirer’s workshop and the magic he creates. It sets the tone for the entire show, and Pereira is divine. He’s charming, he’s funny, but most importantly he’s likable. I find I enjoy “The Nutcracker” more when Drosselmeirer doesn’t come across as someone I wouldn’t allow within 500 yards of my kids, let alone my parlor at Christmas.
Thankfully, this Drosselmeirer is likable, and he carries it with him as he moves the story along. But Pereira’s Drosselmeirer isn’t the only enjoyable character on stage. As my son will tell you, there is nothing like a good fight that involves the dab and cheese, and as The Nutcracker Prince (Kevin Wilson) prepares to battle the Mouse King (Javier Morales), we get both in abundance. After five seasons, my son and I now have an ongoing bet as to which latest dance trend we’ll see. For the record, I won this year.
Dabbing mice aside, it’s the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets I most look forward too, specifically the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, danced this year by two of my favorite dancers, Amaya Rodriguez and Liang Fu. This is what I had to say of Rodriguez and Fu when I first saw them dance the roles in 2016:
“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.“
Three years later, and my feelings remain, they’re just that good, only now there is a level of maturity that time has generously given them. It’s something that’s been given to the entire company, something that makes this year feel strong, settled and, with a few tweaks here and there, fresh.
The Kansas City Ballet has become a company worthy of a stronger presence on the world stage. They’re a group of artistically strong artists, hungry for work that pushes their abilities. It’s an exciting time for the organization, one that is only going to get better as the seasons and years progress.
Kansas City, you need more ballet in your life and we have a company ready to sweep you off your feet, so go. Be swept away this holiday season. I promise you won’t regret it.