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There is nothing else in the world that can get a girl more excited for December than going to see the holiday classic, The Nutcracker, on a cold and windy Chicago night. The moment I stepped into the Auditorium Theatre, my eyes were dazzled by the gold leaf detailing and the vast space lined with box seats. As the orchestra began the first few notes of the overture, I was immediately taken back to over a decade of my childhood that was spent on the other side of the curtains. I remembered the heat of the lights, the smell of the rosin for my shoes, and being jittery with excitement for the performance to come. All of a sudden, I was that 12-year-old girl again, overcome with excitement. The breathtaking show the Joffrey was about to perform was all a girl could ask for!
I know we all know the story of The Nutcracker, which is why it makes such a wonderfully accessible ballet and a great holiday tradition! I was thrilled to see that the Joffrey had incorporated local childrens’ choruses and over a hundred local young dancers in addition to their entire company. So many dancers on stage at once can make certain scenes (like the party one) a visual nightmare. The audience could possibly be left frantically looking back and forth across the stage in fear that something will be missed, but Joffrey’s artistic director, Ashley C. Wheater, does an amazing job of streamlining and organizing the cast. I was visually thrilled by all of the movement, awed by the fantastic period costumes, tickled by how much dancing there actually was, and busting because I was able to follow the story with ease. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time!
I would also like to personally thank the Joffrey for its outstanding showing of male dancers. Classical ballets usually focus on the beautiful ballerinas, but there is nothing more Cheeky than adding a troupe of prime male specimens for our visual entertainment. Coffee from Arabia was an ultimate crowd pleaser, showcasing Kara Zimmerman’s flexibility and grace, but it was Fabrice Calmels’ ripped, shirtless abs that stole the show in my book. Sugar Plum Fairy, Victoria Jaiani, and Nutcracker Prince, Miguel Angel Blanco, were awe-inspiring moving as one, like they have been partnering together all their lives. The Grand Pas De Deux was everything I needed it to be. Amidst the flawless technique and classic choreography, Blanco lifts and spins Jaiani with impressive ease and Jaiani moves with unbelievably revered grace and beauty. Between this and Tchaikovsky’s score, I was literally brought to tears by the end. It is dancers like Jaiani that can make you feel their movements and, ultimately, make you want to go back and see them time and time again. Luckily, the boisterous grand finale gave me the chance to wipe away my tears and see Clara back to her home and family. The Joffrey’s Nutcracker is the best I have ever seen. With ticket prices less than a reasonable $40, I say start your Cheeky tradition today!
Photo Credit: Herbert Migdoll