‘Tis the season. Those sugarplum folks are turning up all over South Florida. Among the most festive of their appearances will be an early evening show at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Sunday, Dec. 9 (and then at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center Dec. 14-16). This is the night the Art Ballet Theatre of South Florida will present its Nutcracker, and not incidentally also celebrate its 15 years of dance in the South Florida community.
What makes this Nutcracker unique? The answer is simple: its director. Russian born Vladimir Issaev grew up amid the world’s most traditional Nutcracker performances and is committed to keeping that classicism alive and well. “No dancing on semi-point, a la Balanchine,” Issaev says, referring to the Nutcracker of the American neo-classical choreographer. Every dancer in Issaev’s version of the ballet is rigorously on point. That includes a many great children. Here too, Art Ballet’s presentation is unique. “I don’t know any other South Florida performance that casts so many children,” says Issaev. “My Nutcracker is full of children and it is danced for children; after all, isn’t Christmas most especially a season for our children? ” He continues: “My most treasured reviews come from the parents who tell me that their entire family, including perhaps a three or a four year old, sat spell-bound throughout the entire ballet.”
If this Nutcracker prides itself on engaging even the youngest members of its audiences, small surprise that Issaev has asked puppet-master Jan Hammond to come join the celebration. Hammond is familiar to South Florida audiences as designer of the puppets from the touring Lion King production. What can audiences expect from him in Nutcracker? “Sheer beauty,” Issaev says as he sighs.
So how did Issaev end up in South Florida? He had the degrees and the work experience of both a choreographer and a master teacher of classical ballet before he left Moscow at the age of 33. “When I became 33 I was suddenly sure that this was a year when I should change my life. It is strange, sometimes, how these feelings come over one.” Issaev went first to Venezuela where he worked for 10 years with the Ballet Nacional de Caracas. A great love brought him to Miami 15 year ago.
Since then he has established a school of dance with 400 pupils, who range in age from 3 to 18. He has also established a dance company with members coming to him from literally over a dozen of countries, from Europe to Latin America to the Far East. Why do they seek him out? “So many companies focus exclusively on modern or neoclassical dance. My dancers are looking for a repertoire company with deep classical roots.” Issaev’s Arts Ballet has toured recently in Indonesia, Poland, and Mexico. They presented Stravinsky’s Fire Bird in Japan.
That same dance company as well as South Florida’s children can be seen in Issaev’s Nutcracker, and not only at the Jackie Gleason Theater, but in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale as well.
But only at the Jackie Gleason will the Arts Ballet Theatre offer its VIP patrons a chance to mingle with its dancers, sugar plums and the rest of the gang at a pre-performance reception.
The Nutcracker comes to The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 7:00 p.m. (VIP Gala at 6:00 p.m.). Tickets are $82.50 (VIP), and $47.50 – $52.50; 305-673-7300. Then to Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura, Dec. 14-16, 7:00 p.m. Tickets: $35.00; 954-462-0222. And at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th St., Fort Lauderdale, Dec. 22 at 7:00 p.m. and Dec. 23 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets: $15 to $35.00; 954-462-0222. Visit www.artsballettheatre.org.