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Spreckels’ ‘Nutcracker’ ---Precision, color and elegance

  • Ella Feleay and guest dancer Rupert Edwards III are in their performance of the 'Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.' Photo by Robert Grant

By: Janet and Lanny Lowery
December 21, 2018

“What is Christmas without a ‘Nutcracker,’” mused Community Voice photographer Robert Grant as he made final adjustments on his camera just before the light lowered and the curtain lifted. “I read that in the program and it really makes sense,” he insisted. No time to ponder this idea as the overture began.

The Santa Rosa Dance Theater presented Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece to sold out audiences at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center Dec. 14 through the 16. This company’s appearance, anticipated by ballet lovers with the eagerness of children waiting for Santa Claus, once again delighted audiences for so many reasons.

 Ballet moms, no less tenacious and supporting than soccer moms, laid out twenty-five feet of gift tables, fund raisers for the company, as the lobby filled with ballet goers of all ages. The wares included nutcrackers, ornaments, gingerbread house kits, ankle socks, pens, nutcracker characters and even tutus. A photo opportunity offered after the performance, pictures with Clara and the Mouse Queen, would benefit North Valley Animal Disaster Group for Campfire.

Many little children, dressed for theater in the city, eager and excited, carried bouquets, to be presented to some performer after the show. The right side of the theater suddenly filled with children of all ages who were sponsored by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. Doting parents asked our photographer about pictures.

 The overture blends into the story as excited children rush by an old man. Herr Drosselmeyer appears and the ballet takes off. Drosselmeyer amazes all with his life-size doll gifts and the drama begins with the introduction of the Nutcracker who soon becomes transformed into a handsome young prince who leads Clara through snowflakes into a magical land of enchantment.

 At intermission the crowd buzzed with pleasing admiration about the performance. Parents and children giddily reviewed what happened. As good as the first half was, it paled next to the second half, literally. Rich colors of costumes, deep reds, striking blues, shimmering golds, all highlighted the well-known dream sequence that takes place through most of Act II. Confectionary delights abound in the Kingdom of Sweets as little angels begin the dream journey. The Nutcracker Prince and Princess Clara romanticize the dream with their elegant moves.

 The offerings become global: Spanish Cocoa, Arabian Delight, Chinese Tea, Russian Tea Cakes and French Miriltons (a flute-like instrument but also a French pastry). And time for a little comic relief as Mother Ginger, played by company leader, Josh Trader, momentarily steals the show as dancing children somersault out from under Mother Ginger’s skirt, more than a half dozen, and dance in circles before they dive again under the skirt and all exit stage right accompanied by substantial applause and murmuring approval.

 A lovely “Waltz of the Flowers” and a “Pas de Deux” of the Prince and the Princess lead into the finale and prolonged performance-ending applause. The ballet company, well guided by Joshua Trader, Stephanie Barclay, Tamara Statkoun, Gina Ness and Marit Van Der Wolde-Trader, particularly benefited from the guest performance of Rupert Edwards III as the Nutcracker Prince; he has appeared in ballets throughout the United States. Claire Wu, Audrey Anderson and Ella Feleay played major roles in the production. And, of course, numerous students of the Santa Rosa Dance Theater helped to make this a most memorable “Nutcracker”.

And photographers and ballet moms cannot be wrong when they say: “What is Christmas without a “Nutcracker”?