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Class Act Tutu Blog

  • Review: Nutcracker the Motion Picture (1986)

    Never before has there been a Nutcracker like this! By fusing together Maurice Sendak’s stunning and lushly designed sets with Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score, Nutcracker: the Motion Picture expands a traditional holiday classic into a cinematic work of art.

    Former PNB artistic director, Kent Stowell skillfully breathes new life into the Nutcracker story through the use of special effects and superb cinematography.  Children and adults alike will gain a new level of understanding and respect for this ballet, thanks to powerful opening scenes featuring Clara’s disturbing dream.

    Creative and artistic liberties are beautifully expanded, thanks to a generous dose of “movie magic”. The wind-up doll indeed dances inside her tiny dollhouse. Young Clara is enveloped by a mystical fog and literally walks through the dead, defeated Mouse King’s giant sleeve and exits the other side--transformed into a beautiful Princess. The charming boat ride across the sea is reminiscent of the pages of a cherished childhood picture book.

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    Dancers’ facial expressions, which are often missed, are strategically focused on during the film adding to the overall depth and dimension of the story.

    Principal dancer, Patricia Barker does an amazing job of bringing Clara’s dream world to life. Her execution of movement exudes with tremendous power, beauty, and sincere artistry. Her expressive features are never showy or lacking in emotion, but rather perfectly suited to the scene at hand.

    The mildly jealous relationship between the Nutcracker Prince and Herr Drosselmeyer is played for humor, adding a thread of “comic relief” throughout the film.

    Viewers, both young and young-at-heart will enjoy this flawless adaptation again and again. Whether you’re a fan of ballet or not, this production offers something for everyone: drama, romance, scuttling siblings, frighteningly odd dreams, a fierce battle scene, and finally an action-packed ending that will leave you breathless.

    Nutcracker: the Motion Picture is a must-see film that should be on everyone’s holiday entertainment list!

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    The Book

    Sadly, what has been called the finest Nutcracker ever staged, is no longer available on VHS. You can enjoy the story in book form with the stunning photography of Angela Sterling.

    On VHS

    You may get lucky and locate a used copy of this wonderful tale.

    See it!

    Or check your local listing for a television showing this holiday season. And, of course, if you are in the Pacific Northwest this holiday season, we encourage you to make Nutcracker with the Pacific Northwest Ballet part of your holiday plans.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet Company dancers in Nutcracker. © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Roméo et Juliette"

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura and soloist James Moore in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    I recently had the privilege of viewing the matinee performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Roméo et Juliette.   I was prepared to be delighted and entertained, being a tremendous fan of PNB already.   However, I must admit I was not prepared for the high caliber of dancing coupled with such flawless character interpretation as this.

    The PNB dancers breathed new life into Jean-Christophe Maillot’s intricate adaptation.   From the moment I saw actual credits rolling across the screen, I knew this would be no ordinary ballet with a modern twist.   This was history in the making.

    The scrawling black and white credits soon gave way to sets that were clean, pure and abstract.   The lighting played a greater role than I’d seen in the past, able to change the entire feel of a scene from a misty dream-like state one minute, to a cold starry night the next.

    The dancers were so in tune with their characters, you easily became lost in the performance.

    Kaori Nakamura’s Juliette was young, fresh and a bit of a “spoiled, wild child”.   From “flashing” her nurse (bad girl!), to her refusal to obey her Mother’s wishes and marry Paris, Nakamura successfully channels all the feisty rebelliousness of the teen years.  This is Nakamura's first time performing as Juliette, and she beautifully exceeds all expectations.

    James Moore’s Romeo is everything you’d expect from a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  He’s playful, rambunctious, headstrong, and a bit of a show-off, especially with the ladies.  Yet for all his flaws, Moore’s Romeo was a character you couldn’t help but fall in love with.

    Olivier Weavers did a superb job as Friar Laurence. As both a silent narrator and active participant to this tragedy, his performance is raw and heartbreaking; his anguish palpable. He is forever trapped in a nightmare of his own making, desperate for forgiveness that will never come.

    Equally magnificent was the athleticism of the Friar’s two Acolytes, played by Jordan Pacitti and Sean Rollofson.  So much of their movement was done in slow, exaggerated motion: the turns, lifts, and carefully executed rolls off the stage were riveting and poetic.

    Principal dancer, Olivier Weavers as "Friar Lawrence" with the two Acolytes (Jordan Pacitti and Jerome Tisserand

    Principal

    Her Nurse, expertly played by Chalnessa Eames, was clearly outwitted--and at times overwhelmed--by her young charge’s antics. Although the Nurse’s movements were silly and comedic, they carried an undertone of seriousness to her tasks at hand. There was no question regarding her devotion to Juliette.

    Mara Vinson’s Lady Capulet was simply magnificent. From the moment she came into view she exuded superior control and confidence. Every inch the powerful matriarch, Vinson gave a performance so compelling I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

    Seth Orza was a very convincing Tybalt. He successfully conveyed his character’s anger, sense of family pride, and deep loathing of the Montague’s. His movements were commanding, intimidating, and breath-taking.

    Mercutio and Benvolio played by Barry Kerollis and Josh Spell, round out the obnoxious Montague bunch. They live to aggravate and annoy the Capulets, most especially Tybalt. They played their roles as troublesome, arrogant pests with a hint of boyish foolishness, to the fullest.

    Jeffrey Stanton’s portrayal of Paris was perfect. He was quiet, unassuming, gentlemanly; a stark contrast from Tybalt and Romeo.

    Lesley Rausch played a sexy, sassy Rosaline. Her character is well-aware of her beauty and uses it to full advantage.

    Story Highlights

    The attraction between Romeo and Juliette was undeniably beautiful. The Balcony scene served as an exquisite moment of foreplay, aching with longing. Their wedding was simple and elegant; their wedding night resonating with passion and joy. It was in that moment that Juliette became the pursuer, with her Romeo succumbing to her charms. Watching these two, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was witnessing pure magic.

    With the dramatic fight scene at the end of Act II, the audience is suddenly catapulted into the midst of Friar Laurence’s nightmare. Like one possessed, he digs his fingers into the set as it moves eerily across the floor, trying in vain to stop the next chain of events.The terror unfolds in slow motion as the distraught Friar

    Principals Bakturel Bold and Jonathan Poretta

    Principal

    Laurence watches on in agony. This is the moment he was dreading. This is the moment when everything falls apart.

    As the action resumes normal speed, the brutality and its aftermath hit you full-force. Lady Capulet flails about in a wild rage, her grief unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Paris must half-carry, half-drag her away from Tybalt’s lifeless form. Her heart takes another devastating blow with the loss of her daughter. She bitterly clings to the walls as if to say, “Take me now! I can’t bear this any longer!” As a mother, you feel her cries echo through your heart as she doubles over repeatedly in anguish. Yet her reaction is nothing compared to Romeo’s. As we know, Friar Laurence’s letter has not reached him in time. Romeo cannot—will not—bear this excruciating loss.

    As Juliette awakens from her slumber and discovers that her cherished Romeo is no more, you feel her gut-wrenching loss. Her body is wracked with sobs, her horrified expression crying out, “This was not how it was supposed to be!”

    Unable to bear the scene before him, Friar Laurence turns his back toward the grief-stricken Juliette and clings to the wall in shame and helplessness. Juliette then strangles herself and gently falls across her beloved’s body.

    Conclusion

    I was absolutely enthralled by this performance. It was magical, poignant, thrilling, devastating and beautifully complex. The dancer’s dramatic expressions, the careful subtleties of movement, and the striking character development work together to provide a rich, new layer to this Shakespearean tragedy. I'm so thankful to Peter Boal for adding this production to the company's repertoire.

    What may have initially felt like a bold move to my "classically inclined" mind, the performance left me with an even deeper respect for PNB as a whole. This is a company that is clearly up to any challenge a choreographer or director may throw their way.

    My co-worker and companion on this trip, Lisa-Marie, also found the performance captivating. In fact, this was her first time ever seeing a ballet so I'll let her reaction speak for itself: "I am spoiled for life! I can never see another ballet again without comparing it to Romeo et Juliette."

    Run—do not walk—to McCaw Hall and get your tickets to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Romeo et Juliette. You will not be disappointed.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu All Photos © Angela Sterling

    James Moore and Kaori Nakamura Romeo et Juliette

    Pacific

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