Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, under the artistic direction of ballet master and choreographer Vladimir Issaev, is midway through its season’s second program offering, The Nutcracker. With the classic score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by the Russian-born Issaev, the company lifted the veil to a holiday fantasy on Dec. 3 at the Olympic Theater at the Gusman Center; followed by performances on Dec. 9 through 11 at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center; and continuing with final performances on Dec. 17 and 18 at the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale.
Arts Ballet Theatre’s performance on Dec. 10 was a charming affair with classical dancing, visual delights, and moments of sheer fun. Act I opens with the guests arriving at the Stahlbaum’s home for the Christmas celebration. The host family can be seen behind the downstage scrim with maids and children fussing about the great hall while guests and children danced across the proscenium. As noted in the program, parents, friends, and family participated as revelers in the grande fête that included 19th-century ball dances; puppet shows; dancing toys; and the ever-ominous Drosselmeyer performed by Kohhei Kuwana. Many children of various ages and young apprentices in tutelage at Arts Ballet Theatre had a part as mice, soldiers, snowflakes, flowers, toys, and dancers from Arabia, Spain, and China.
A highlight of Act I was the seemingly endless and endearing infestation of the Mouse Army that terrorized Clara performed by Laura Panameno. The soldiers led by the Nutcracker Prince countered with forward marches and even a horseback riding captain, a young dancer wearing a humorous horse rig. There were many surprising effects from confetti explosions, gunfire, snowfall, mists, and the familiar Christmas tree that grows through the ceiling at midnight. The first act closed with the Snow Scene, with soloists DeeDee Rosner and Fan Shi. The second act takes a journey through realms of sugarplums, marzipan, chocolate, tea, and coffee. Soloists Breeana Flannery and Kelvin Rabines danced a regal pax de deux in blue velvet as the corps of flowers in rows of four danced in sylphlike tulle through classic formations and crisscrossing diagonals. Lilian Hill as Sugarplum Fairy and Yhosvani Rodriguez as her Cavalier performed the Grand Pas de Deux with requisite variations including traditional fouetté turns and jetés en manège. A clear audience favorite were the special guest performers, Danil and Denis Osipov, who performed an explosive Russian dance with somersaults, one-handed cart wheels and the fever-pitch kicks of the Cossack’s dance.
After the holidays, the company will present two more program offerings this season in Broward and Miami-Dade. In March the company performs a revival of their 2009 staging of The Fairy Doll. Originally choreographed to music by Josef Bayer in 1888, the ballet is choreographed by Issaev with costumes by Jorge Gallardo and sets by Elena Bond. Closing the season in May is the Spring Ballet Gala showcasing the talents of the dancers rich in diversity hailing from many countries like Cuba, Australia, Japan, China, Russia, Peru, and the United States. The post-season culminates in a two-week tour of Poland and Russia. Marketing director Rubi Issaev mentioned in her remarks that as part of the collaborative project Route to Human Rights, between Miami Dade College and the International Solidarity for Human Rights, the company was honored in dedication in the latest installment of what will ultimately be 30 pieces of sculpture throughout Miami Dade, each representing one of the articles in the Declaration of Human Rights. Finally, the company will be celebrating its 15th anniversary next season, which will be an opportunity to highlight this classical, multi-national, and multi-generational company of artists.
Arts Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” will continue Dec. 17 & 18 at the Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale; www.parkerplayhouse. com; www.artsballettheatre.org.
PHOTO: Kaori Fukui and Jun Tanabe dancing the Sugarplum pas de deux; photo by Joey Gluska
This article was first published in the Miami Sun Post