The Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theater returns to the stage with “The Nutcracker” – Monterey Herald


The Nutcracker ballet, composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, has been a winter holiday tradition since its beginnings in 1892. Based on Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 adaptation of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, the ballet depicts Clara’s story and the lessons she learns from her nutcracker.

Clara never gave up. Not on his broken nutcracker, and not on the possibility that after COVID canceled the “The Nutcracker” performance last December, the Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theater would resume the stage.

His wish came true. After more than a year of cut short shows, Tes Laflan, 13, of Pacific Grove, laced up her pumps and, as Clara, gave the performance of her life. Until now.

After more than a year of reduced performances, the Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theater returned to perform “The Nutcracker”. (Michael Troutman – Special for the Herald)

“It was my first year doing ‘The Nutcracker’,” said Laflan, who started dancing at age 6 and went on pointe two years ago. “I had a lot of stage presence which gave me a mix of nervous energy and excitement. It was mostly a lot of fun; I let muscle memory take over so I could just dance and enjoy the experience.

The audience, who packed Carmel’s Sunset Center for three community performances, as well as a youth art outreach program last weekend, responded with applause and a standing ovation at one performance at a time. elegant and athletic, by a company of 110 dancers.

“Bringing the Nutcracker back to life this season, we thought it was mainly for our casting,” said artistic director and founder of Monterey Peninsula Ballet, Tia Brown Rosenblum. “When we realized the impact we were having on the audience, we understood that it was a touching and meaningful event for the whole community. The applause told us that people seemed to be sensing what we had been through to get back on stage. “

Practically possible

Last year, when COVID canceled the performance, dancers rehearsed and performed in small pods, which were filmed and presented as a “ballet night” on the big screen at the Monterey Fairgrounds. The audience, bundled up against the cold, sipped hot chocolate and watched from their vehicles in a real movie theater by car.

“The dancers enjoyed the chance to dance and watch each other perform via the video,” said Peninsula board chairperson Michelle Wouden, whose daughter, Sierra Wouden-Crosno, danced last year and this year as the main ballerina doll. “But that wasn’t the same as performing, living on stage and having an audience response, or getting a high five behind the scenes from the rest of the cast.”

The main role in The Nutcracker story and on stage is the Sugar Plum fairy. Tchaikovsky and the original choreographer Lev Ivanov wanted the music to sound like “drops of water gushing out of a fountain,” which was achieved by a celesta, a small piano-like instrument, invented in 1896, which sounds like tinkling bells. Although considered to be one of the most difficult roles in canon ballet or choreography, a talented ballerina can make it seem effortless. This was the case with 16-year-old Norah Takehara, whose interpretation of the “Sugar Plum Fairy Dance” appeared light and delicate while offering the demands of technique and endurance, as well as elegance and please.

“When we realized the impact we were having on the audience, we understood that this was a touching and meaningful event for the whole community,” said artistic director and founder of Monterey Peninsula Ballet, Tia Brown Rosenblum. “The applause told us that people seemed to be feeling what we had been through to get back on stage. (Michael Troutman – Special for the Herald)

Unlike many ballet performances in community theaters across the country, where dancers land on pointe with the weight and thud of a Clydesdale, Takehara and the entire cast landed in silence, suggesting a lighter effect. than air.

“Sugar Plum has always been a dream of mine,” said Takehara, who has played the roles of Clara and the Snow Queen for years past. “I was very excited but also nervous because I always want to dance well and look like a beautiful ballerina. Still, dancing the role felt very natural, and it was refreshing to be back on stage. “

Takehara’s dance partner Randolph Fernandez is a professional performer with the Oklahoma City Ballet. He flew to town in time for a few quick rehearsals before delivering a flawless performance in support of his fairy Sugar Plum.

“Randolph is such a wonderful dancer and always encouraged me,” Takehara said. “It’s really nice to have this supportive relationship with a partner. The Sugar Plum fairy is said to be majestic and elegant, with subtle poise and grace. I loved the role and the choreography so much and hope it shines through my facial expressions and my dancing.

Backstage Pass

To get 110 dancers to jump backstage, a small army of parents and staff gathered backstage to make quick costume changes and coordinate the cast for each scene. Three parents in particular – Tammy Stickler, Sarah Takehara and Vera McCarthy, whose daughter, Nina McCarthy, danced the role of the Queen of Angels – have provided backstage coordination since the Peninsula Ballet began presenting the production.

“We start working on the behind-the-scenes coordination months in advance,” said Stickler, whose daughter, Chole Sticker, graduated two years ago and is studying marine biology and dance at Long. Beach State. “We have such a dedicated group of dancers and also parent volunteers who work behind the scenes. It’s intense, but it’s a labor of love for all of us, and it was really fun to be back, supporting a performance on stage.

While Norah Takehara danced the Sugar Plum Fairy, her mother was backstage, performing quick changes, while her father, Dr. James Takehara, pointed out the fog, argued over props, and at one point was hidden away. inside the Christmas tree, performing its magical growth.

“Norah was amazing, but everyone was amazing,” said Lovina Worick, vice-chair of the board, whose son Julius Dutta, 13, danced as Drosselmeyer’s assistant and among the Reed Pipe. Body. “This production came together as a magnificent and fluid piece that took us to another world. It was fascinating. Considering everything we have all been through, it was absolutely magical.

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