Ballet San Jose’s Nutcracker, San Jose’s Performing Arts Center, December 10

13 Dec

Ballet San Jose’s low profile this fall dissipated with the opening of its annual Nutcracker and Janice Berman’s feature on the San Francisco Classical Voice Website.  While the former was welcome, Berman’s coverage is not pleasant;  January 3 Ballet San Jose’s Guild will announce its decision regarding  the company, its spring season, Dennis Nahat’s fate and future artistic activity.  Apparently, when someone has given fourteen million dollars to a company’s coffers, he can dictate, determine hiring, repertoire, etc.  It’s a sad business. Stay tuned.

As Nahat and the late Ian Horvath envisioned The Nutcracker scenario over a quarter of a century ago in Cleveland, Ohio, it was very much a Euroopean affair in a stuffily furnished cold climate house, if long on hospitality. Maximo Califano assumed the Nahat role of Drosselmeyer with Roni Mahler as the all seeing parlor maid, Helga. The family name is now Tannenbaum, Ruth Ann Namey an attractive mother, Junna Ige Maria, Francisco Preciado the mischievous son.

The usual chaos occurs before Maria hunted for the nutcracker doll after the guests depart. Ballet San Jose’s small students assumed the roles of mice , taking on the company men who masquerade as toy soldiers.  The lively scene had Maria picking up the sword of the felled Nutcracker to thwack mortally the Mouse King. This unique version of the dispatch displayed Maria’s potential in adulthood.   Ramon Moreno, as Prince Alexis, emerged from the Nutcracker headdress to lead the petite Ige on their journey to the Imperial Throne Room in Moscow. En route they passed circuitously through Spain, some Arabic area and China before making it to the gates of Moscow where they were greeted by four Russian stalwarts.

Distinctive in Nahat’s reading of Tchaikovsky’s score and E.T.A. Hoffman is Maria and Prince Alexis’s constant activity en route to Moscow. In Snowland they replaced the usual monarchs of chill and snowflakes.  They danced Spanish-dusted steps in Spain, received a dash of oriental mystique in Arabic land and Alexis joined the guardians of Moscow’s portals. Ige and Moreno were not only well matched for size, but also for fleetness; Moreno’s grand jetes were arrow true, with long bow force behind them, while Ige’s stretch managed to sing in its brief flight.

Alexis, reunited with Mom and Pop, Jeremy Kovitch as Tsar Nicolai, Alexsandra Meijer as Tsarina Tatiana,  Alexis recounted the tale.  Mama rejoiced before rushing off to prepare for the Grand Pas de Deux, Kovitch gallantly supported Meijer’s classical line, marred by her belief cocking or stretching her head will add the final touch to the otherwise pristine.

Instead of head flower and blossoms, the Act II waltz is given to couples, the women with white satin gowns, the men in black tie and tails, swooping around the stage. Circling the space, the company completed its involvement with two or three roles  required of most dancers, met with considerable grace.

Prince Alexis carried Maria back to the chair near the fireplace where they first met, settled her in where she was discovered by her parents and carried off to bed.  Mother Tannenbaum noted  the change in garments, took a look at the mantelpiece where the small nutcracker rewarded her with a bow.  Mother T crossed the stage wondering, shrugged her shoulders as the curtain fell.

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