Joffrey's 'The Nutcracker' surprisingly perfect for preschoolersTuesday, December 10, 2013
Clara and her beloved Nutcracker Prince. A vibrant Victorian Christmas ball. The epic battle with the Rat King and his minions. And the snow-filled dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. All of these are gorgeously depicted in The Joffrey Ballet's famed Nutcracker, which more than delivers the kind of lovely artistry this wonderful story merits.
Originally conceived and directed by Robert Joffrey in 1987, this production has become a timeless classic for a reason: it's a terrific way to celebrate the holiday season and such a treat to let the beauty of Tchaikovsky's music wash over you like so many sparkling snowflakes (which are incorporated into the design in glittery abundance).
It's easy to forget that the graceful, feather-like dancers featured in this performance are actually powerhouses of Olympiad proportions- until you see them perform gravity-defying movements with a flick of the wrist or ankle. April Daly's Sugar Plum Fairy and Dylan Gutierrez's The Nutcracker Prince are standouts, as are the Divertissements (most notably the Coffee From Arabia, portrayed by Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein). My daughter and I both loved the larger-than-life puppetry of Mother Ginger and her Polichnelles - and if there's anything cuter than little kids dancing as gingerbread men and tiny clowns, well then, I haven't yet seen it.
Clocking in at a little over two hours, this isn't your average family-friendly show length. But I've rarely taken in a performance that's felt more decadent or lushly festive and, based on my daughter's riveted perch on the edge of her chair, I think it's safe to assume that she more than dug it. I had wondered if parts of the show would be lost on my four year-old, but as soon as the overture began I realized that this is the perfect age to introduce the art of ballet. What preschooler doesn't fully understand body language and movement to tell a story? Add to that the wonder of this glittery performance and beauty of these dancers, and you've got something special:
A guarantee that your little kid will be attempting the Sugar Plum Fairy's pas de deux with her little sister for the better part of a week, for one thing.
And the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the ballet, starting with a downright spectacular holiday tradition.
Disclosure: I was provided complimentary tickets to this ballet, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.