Arts & Entertainment, Features, Reviews

REVIEW: Boston Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ through a dancer’s eyes

Visions of sugarplum fairies will surely be dancing, twirling and leaping through my head for days following Boston Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker.”

While I have seen the scenes of the show unfold countless times from the wings of the stage, it was truly magical to finally watch through the eyes of the audience.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Since the age of 8, I have performed in “The Nutcracker” countless times, but I had never seen the show performed by a professional cast of dancers. The anticipation of finally seeing it at the Citizens Bank Opera House by the Boston Ballet did not disappoint.

Even though I was seated in the last row and the furthest seat on the right, I can adamantly say that there is no bad seat in the theater. The sounds of the live orchestra and movements of the dancers will be heard and seen, regardless if you spend hundreds of dollars to sit in the front or a measly $25 like I did for the back.

My biggest takeaway from the show was that it is truly a production — and one worth every penny to see. From the sets, lights, costumes and even fake snow, the story comes to life and transports you into the Kingdom of the Sweets.

Going into the show, I was expecting the Boston Ballet’s adaptation to stay very true to the original story, but was pleasantly surprised by some whimsical aspects they added in. One notable addition was a huge yellow bear gift from Drosselmeyer to Clara and Fritz in the opening party scene.

This dancer in a huge, fluffy costume complete with a full bear mask was a crowd favorite — drawing a cacophony of laughter as they crawled on all fours around the stage.

The rats from Nutcracker performances around the world have gone extremely viral in recent years, and I highly recommend you look them up to fully grasp how detailed and realistic these costumes are. The resemblance is uncanny between them and the rats that have scurried past many students’ feet in Boston University’s West Campus.

Laughter roared during the rat scenes, with the children’s voices carrying above all others. Small moments of comic relief, such as a rat eating a life-sized gingerbread person and a red carpet rolling out for Clara made the production that much better.

Arguably the most iconic dance in the show is the “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” in which they help to transport Clara into the Kingdom of the Sweets and conclude the first act. This was always my favorite part of the show and performing in it — on a much smaller scale, however — was the highlight of my dance career.

From this point on, the sets and effects deeply elevate the sense of magic and transport you into the scenes. The wings change with the background to appear as a snowy forest while snow sprinkles down for over six minutes.

The fact that the Snow Queen, after fake snow had been piling on stage for minutes, still performed a flawless solo en pointe was insanely impressive.

Usually, the curtains close on Act One with Clara and the Nutcracker riding off in a sleigh to the Kingdom of the Sweets, but this was a moment where the Boston Ballet triumphed over other productions. The pair of them enter a cloud that actually flies off above the stage and out of sight.

I physically dropped my jaw when I saw this.

I didn’t think it was possible to be more impressed by the sets until the curtains reopened for the second act. The stage appeared to be never-ending, with multiple layers and a raised platform in the back where Clara, the Nutcracker and a group of guards sat to watch the group dances.

My only complaint was how short the dances were in Act Two, though that is not uncommon with Nutcracker performances. This is where they showcased other dance styles, such as contemporary dance and ribbon twirling — giving me rhythmic gymnastics vibes — but I wished I could have seen more.

One aspect I was skeptical about at first was the inclusion of young children in such a professional performance. I was worried they would take away from or distract from the serious ballet.

However, there was a good balance between the seriousness of the dancers and the silliness of the children that I enjoyed.

They added an extra layer to the group performances, especially when they wore fluffy sheep (or lamb?) costumes and skipped in circles around the principal dancers, an element I had never seen before.

Now it wouldn’t truly be a Nutcracker review without mentioning the Sugar Plum Fairy. This character truly embodies the epitome of what you imagine a ballerina to be: effortless dancing, a sparkling tutu, extended lines and endless amounts of leaps and pirouettes.

The Nutcracker pas de deux is a four-part dance performed by the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince at first as a duet, followed by a solo of each until finally they come back together again.

This was possibly some of the best ballet I have ever seen. Both the dancers were extremely talented and performed lifts that left the audience oohing and aahing.

All in all, I would see Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” again in a heartbeat. With a different cast of performers for each show, the experience will be slightly different every time, meaning you’ll never get bored.

It is the perfect show to get into the holiday spirit and feel the magic of the season.

Don’t believe me? Spend just a few minutes with the groups of children in their holiday attire dancing among the seats during intermission and I’m sure you will change your mind.

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