When Ballet West traded the Capitol Theatre for the Kennedy Center during a weeklong stint at the height of the 2012 “Nutcracker” season, critics from the New York Times and Washington Post cooed. The rest of the run sold out.
Now, Ballet West has been invited back to Washington, D.C., to do it all again Dec. 10-14.
“It’s a charming production with beautiful costumes and sets,” Kennedy Center spokeswoman Amanda Hunter said. “It was a huge hit with audiences, so we are thrilled to bring the production back this season.”
The Ballet West productions will begin Dec. 5 at the Capitol Theatre and continue through Dec. 31.
So why is Ballet West's production sought out by other venues? For starters, not every town has its own “Nutcracker.” Surprisingly, countless cities, even big ones, are lacking the famous holiday ballet on a professional level.
And not all “Nutcrackers” are created equal. Some, such as Ballet West's, are traditional. Some run on a tight budget, and some are alternative or avant-garde.
Ballet West soloist Adrian Fry danced as Groucho Marx in the Omaha Ballet version of “Nutcracker” before he joined Ballet West in 2010.
“It was set in the 1920s,” he said. “Charlie Chaplin and Betty Boop showed up to the party scene, the snow scene was reminiscent of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and the Russian dance featured the Marx brothers.”
New Ballet West artist Gabrielle Salvatto will dance a classical “Nutcracker” for the first time in her career during this upcoming season. Previously a guest performer with New York’s Urban Ballet Theater, she described the company’s take on the holiday tale:
“The snow set includes a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, the mice and soldiers battled by ‘krumping’ and breakdancing, there’s salsa dancing during the party scene, and the Arabian dance is transformed into an African dance — all complete with a drummer and corps dancers in traditional African costumes.”
Katlyn Addison danced with Houston Ballet before joining Ballet West in 2011. Both companies approach the holiday tale with traditional “glitz and glamour,” she said, but she has noticed something unique in the Utah production, which was choreographed by Ballet West founder Willam Christensen in 1944.
“While both are very traditional in technique,” Addison said, “Ballet West’s is much lighter, with a more comedic approach that in certain parts allows the audience to really follow the story.”
It’s a strange phenomenon. Although it's a ballet many of us have seen so many times we might as well dance it ourselves, it somehow manages to grow better with age.
Artistic director Adam Sklute said the company is in negotiations with a number of cities for possible future “Nutcracker” stops, but he maintains any other sojourns would amount to — at most — another week.
“We will never shortchange our local audiences,” said Sklute, who pointed out that not every Utah performance is entirely full, so compacting four weeks into three — or even two — might be more practical.
If you go ...
What: Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker”
When: Dec. 5-31, 7 p.m.; Saturday matinees, 2 p.m.; and Dec. 24, noon
Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South
How much: $10-$75
Note: Following each Saturday matinee performance at the Capitol Theatre, Ballet West will host "Sugar Plum Parties" for children, where they can join the Sugar Plum Fairy and other favorite characters from the ballet for refreshments and a special treat. Tickets are $10 and available through the Ballet West ticket office.