Ballet West's 'Nutcracker' receives high marks from controversial New York Times reviewer

Published: Thursday, Dec. 16 2010 1:13 a.m. MST

Ballet West Principal Artists Christiana Bennett and Christopher Ruud as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in "The Nutcracker."

Photo by Ryan Galbraith

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SALT LAKE CITY — A controversial comment about the New York City Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" has a connection to Salt Lake City's Ballet West. The same dance critic reviewed Ballet West's "Nutcracker," but with very different results.

Ballet West's "Nutcracker" remains beloved, but hardly alone. There are many throughout the country, and this year in the Big Apple, there is big controversy.

New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay wrote of New York City Ballet's Jenifer Ringer, who portrays the Sugarplum Fairy, that she "... looked as if she'd eaten one sugarplum too many."

When Ballet West learned the same dance critic would review their "Nutcracker," it was more than a little nerve-racking.

Ballet West's depiction, created by Willam Christensen, is the oldest in the country. Macaulay called it "One of the best productions I've ever seen" and "The best discovery of my 'Nutcracker' marathon."

Peter Christie, who has played the role of Drosselmeyer for 25 years and is retiring after this show, received high marks from Macaulay.

"For me, that's one of the reasons I'm still here after all these years is because even through all the changes of artistic leadership, the heart and core of Mr. Christensen's Ballet West is still there," said Christie.

"I was, of course, thrilled and relieved and excited for the company by the review, but also not a hundred percent surprised," said Ballet West's artistic director Adam Sklute.

Sklute says both the good and bad reviews have had the same result for both dance companies — selling more tickets.

"You know, sometimes bad reviews spark more people to come to the ballet because they're saying, 'Oh, what are they talking about? What is this hubbub?' " said Ballet West principal artist Christiana Bennett. "But we do always appreciate the better reviews."

Ringer addressed Macaulay's criticism Monday during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show, saying she's not overweight but has a more womanly type of body than a "stereotypical ballerina."

Ringer also said, however, that Macaulay didn't owe her an apology. "It's his opinion," the principal dancer said. "He is a critic and he's paid to put his opinion in the paper."

e-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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