There are as many unique dancers as there are snowflakes, and there may he just as many versions of The Nutcracker. The story is basically the same, with a few additional characters based on which country you see The Nutcracker in and which version is being performed. Some variations focus much more on the lands visited by Clara and her Nutcracker prince, but the ones I like best are like José Mateo’s Ballet Theatre’s version and feel much more like Clara’s story. Clara is the person the audience becomes. They go on her journey with her.
More than 200 children ranging in age from 6 to 18 make up three Nutcracker casts ranging from mice to party children to angels and cherubs. Arlington’s Alexandra Kellie, Winchester’s Kennedy Luce-Burke, and Lexington’s Delia Wada-Gill alternate the lead role of Clara.All of the older dancers play many parts in one evening, and even the Claras are seen dancing nightly in their alternate roles from Angels to flowers.
The professionals in the cast are José Mateo Ballet Theatre company dancers and teachers, they include local talent who join this tight knit community just for Nutcracker season and Ballet Theatre acknowledges all the wonderful dance schools in the community who have trained and worked with all the dancers: Roxbury Prep, 4 Star Dance Studio, Ballet Academy, Boston Ballet School, Brookline Ballet, Charles River Ballet Academy, Dance Connection in Stoughton, Dance Place in Arlington, Dance Theatre of New England, Dance Time, Dance Fit Brookline, Fresh Pond Ballet, Hazel Boone Studio, Hingham Community, Intergrarte Jamaica Plain, Dance Workshop, Jean Paige School of Dance, Julieanne’s Dance Workshop, Koltun Ballet Boston, Lexington School of Ballet, Lorraine Spada School of Dance, Lynn & Jen’s Dance Studio, and Miss Emily West Roxbury.
In Ballet Theatre’s production, Clara is a strong character, who doesn’t put up with any of the boys’ taunting when she receives a rather odd gift from her uncle Drosselmeir. She has a soft spot for this rather mysterious character and even gets him to loosen up and join her on the dance floor during the holiday party. The evening of the performance we saw Clara was performed by Kennedy Luce-Burke. She danced beautifully and held her own with a cast of seasoned professionals and a plethora of José Mateo Ballet Theatre students. Kennedy Luce-Burke danced the role of Clara on pointe, and one thing I enjoy about watching any of Mr Matéo’s works is that he does not “dumb down” the choreography, but rather raises the dancer to meet his vision.Kennedy Luce-Burke definitely rose to the occasion with her artistry, strength and pantomime.
The Nutcracker had the audience on a journey with many laughs from the cutest mice and Polichinelles to the familiar sibling rivalries and Clara kicking (in the most balletic way) the littlest boy trying to snatch away the nutcracker. From belly laughs to total awe and silence during the beautiful snow scene when the room is so quiet, all coughing and children’s excited chatter disappears as the music builds and like magic the snow begins to fall. I may or may not have teared up at the magic of the scene.
On stage, you find dancers who have performed with companies big and small. The dance world is a small one and dancers will always be dancers whether they have other careers, make dance their profession, or are young dancers exploring what the art means to them. When they all come on stage together to do what they love, you see past any sickled feet, less than perfect splits or lifts and you see the story, the joy and the magic. I have seen only one or two perfect performances in my entire life, and I have seen ballet in many countries and cities. The true perfection comes when the choreography and artistry come together and outweigh any flaws in the dancing itself we are all human after all… even ballet dancers.
Although, I love the big jumps and machismo of Boston Ballet’s Russian dancers, it was nice to see a different version. Cecelia Zeval and Henoch Spinola were a wonderful, energetic duo, with their flawless performance. Sabrina Appleby and Michayla Kelly in Tea were also perfectly together with a playful energy and joy they brought to the stage. I loved Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre’s Pastorale that had a Parisian flare with their pancake tutus and fascinator style hats. Angie DeWolf as sugar plum fairy and Spencer Doru Keith as her Cavalier had some wonderful partnering and lifts. I also felt that even in Arabian there was a strength to the female characters throughout the production that you don’t always get in The Nutcracker (and I’m not talking about just physical strength here).
On stage you find former Boston Ballet Claras, and professional dancers, Mathematicians, academics from the world’s most prestigious universities, Physicists, Psychology students, ballet teachers, pianists, violinists, children who will some day become professional dancers, scientists, artists and heads of state. I especially enjoy reading about each dancer in a production like this because the cast is pulled together from within the school and the greater community.
José Mateo Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker is performed to recorded music, as ticket prices could not be so reasonable with a live orchestra. Discounted tickets can be found at Goldstar and Mayor’s Holiday Special.
Performances are held at Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theatre & Dorchester’s Strand Theatre:
Cutler Majestic- Boston