Until recently, Clara’s role in “The Nutcracker Suite” was primarily an acting role, played by a young girl in a pink nightgown. All she had to do was hit the Mouse King with his shoe (usually a ballet slipper) during the first act battle scene and then go back to bed to dream of her handsome Nutcracker Prince.
Li’s arabesques were exquisite and her stage presence totally professional.
The little heroine (called Marie or Masha in some versions) would then sit quietly and watch the older ballerinas do all the fancy dances in the Candy Kingdom.
That’s not true this season, at least not in the Classical Ballet Theater of Maryland’s rendition of “The Nutcracker”, seen at the Jim Rouse Theater last Sunday afternoon.
While Clara, 14-year-old Jeslyn Li was able to dance on her own (on pointe, no less) and then took a tour or two with professional dancers Vadim Pijicov as Herr Drosselmeyer and The Real Nutcracker Live, Jaime Orrego, who did double duty in the magnificent Snow Pas de Deux (French for some romantic dance combinations).
In choosing a Clara for any production of “Nuts,” as it is colloquially known, a company manager takes into account stage presence, ballet technique, acting skills and the comfort of the ballerina. on the scene.
The arabesques of Jeslyn Ki were exquisite; his relationship with older dancers, totally professional. On her own, she’s an ace at turns and jumps. Along with the guys, she has emerged as a mature performer with a flair for drama and daring.
During the fantastic two-act ballet – bathed in the magnificent music of Tchaikovsky – Clara sees her beautiful nutcracker doll come to life, watches him fight giant mice, accompanies him on a wonderful journey through an icy forest and l large adventure envelope in a room of the palace.
It is in the palace, with its fabulous sets and costumes, that the magic of ballet culminates. Guest artist Katherine Barkman has performed the coveted role of Sugar Plum with grace, panache, and a genuine love of being the center of attention with an cheering audience. Her handsome prince, Masanori Takiguchi has handled triple turns and sensitive partnerships as if they were born to dance together.
These performers did not perform their roles on stage – so they attacked with passion and an insane attitude, making the moment when the princess falls into the arms of her date all the more romantic and touching. If we’re lucky, we might get to see them perform in the US version of The Washington Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” when it airs at the Warner Theater through December 28, 2021.
When it comes to high-flying Soviet-style dancing, no one surpasses Vadim Slatvitsky as the Mouse King. Russian dancers are famous for going into their art with the utmost abandon. Perhaps sensing that Russian honor is at stake in this traditional holiday spectacle, he was a fierce opponent and flew higher and more powerful than other mice.
In addition to Russian goodies, the Kalinka Dance Ensemble joined the dancers of L’Etoile for the familiar Russian variation of act two. Congratulations to Ladda Borovikov, James Frank, Fiona Beselman, Danica Kashtelyan and Juliet Frank. Notable soloists included Sasha Cheloff in Spanish and Emma Pan in Chinese. The sultry Arab duo, Lily Shen and Gabrielle Fish sparkled in their golden costumes.
For my money, although the Frozen is the real plum role in “The Nutcracker”. Caroline Linehan reigned supreme as she guided her dancing snowflakes across the stage. Accompanied by Jaime Orrego who managed at least three or four laps in the air (the step that Nureyev made famous) closed the curtain with the audience standing.
Add to all that the choral voices that join the symphonic score of Tchaikovsky’s famous music, plus the imaginary snow falling from the rafters – it was magical, indeed.
Duration: approximately 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Directed by Svetlana Kravtsova and Vadim Pijicov, the Classical Ballet Theater of Maryland, based at L’Etoile / The Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland, presented its 10e annual “The Nutcracker” this past weekend at the Jim Rouse Theater, Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Rd, Columbia, MD 21044. For more information on summer programs and spring shows, visit russballet.org.