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Review: Dallas Repertoire Ballet’s The Nutcracker

DASHING DANCE

DRB company member Hannah Morris as Clara in this year's production of The Nutcracker. Photo: Kim Voorhies
DRB company member Hannah Morris as Clara in this year’s production of The Nutcracker. Photo: Kim Voorhies

At the Eisemann Center, Dallas Repertoire Ballet delivers one of the most exuberant and technically spectacular Nutcracker productions of the season.

Richardson — Having seen multiple Nutcracker performances already this season critics sometimes feel like they are on autopilot when sitting in the audience for another show. Ballet companies have to find new ways to freshen up their Nutcracker without deviating too far from the ballet’s renowned origins. Dallas Repertoire Ballet (DRB) managed to accomplish this Friday evening with a fast-paced and choreographically exceptional Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. Artistic Director Megan Willsey-Buckland and choreographers Kathy Willsey and Audrey Rusher Mitts made some bold choices when it came to story development and prominent dance numbers such as Snow and the Waltz of the Flowers that kept the audience, including moi, engaged for the duration of the show.

The dashing pace of the show was set from the get-go. The curtains opened up to reveal the inside of the Stahlbaum’s house where Mr. Stahlbaum, his wife, daughter Clara and son Fitz are preparing for their annual Christmas party. The stage is simply set with a grandfather clock, some chairs and a sofa. The vastness of the space is quickly forgotten as 50 plus children and adults swarm on stage to greet the party hosts. These introductions, which usually take minutes in many productions, took mere seconds in DRB’s version leaving the dancers with more time to show off their bountiful technique, stamina and individual artistry. Clara (Hannah Morris) and her friends excelled in their allegro numbers, performing the repetitive petite jumps and traveling steps with ease. Chaos was avoided with practiced entrances and exits and visually pleasing traveling patterns. The choreographers took a risk by minimizing the grand gesturing that is typical, replacing it with more dance sequences, a decision that in this case worked thanks to the commitment of the adults and younger dancers. The older party goers displayed their intermediate waltzing skills while Morris wowed us multiple times with her far-reaching lines and unrestrained enthusiasm.

The drama of the battle scene was enhanced by the fog machines and the tour de force that is Albert Drake in the role of the Nutcracker Prince. Drake’s background with the Bruce Wood Dance Project added dimension to the otherwise typically flat princely character. Drake also did not hold back when it came to the military-precision arm motions and repetitive toe touches to the delights of viewers. Not wanting to waste such a talent, Drake also makes an appearance in the Snow scene with a pas de deux with Morris which, while quite lovely, did take some of the shine away from the Snow Queen (Ashlee Gilchrist) and Bruce Wood Dance Project member Harry Feril as the Snow King. Feril effortlessly manipulated Gilchrist through the various body shapes and over the head lifts that are staple points of this particular scene. While Gilchrist’s upper body appeared stiff during certain lifts, exhaling while executing movement will enrich her performance. Choreographer Megan Willsey-Buckland’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ background shone through the Snow Corps’ sharp arm placements and various movement contagions.

Photo: Kim Voorhies
Photo: Kim Voorhies

The first half’s steady pace and eclectic display of skills continued in the second half of the show. Feril pulled double duty as the Cavalier to Grace Ludwinski’s Sugar Plum Fairy. Ludwinski’s slight frame made it easy for Feril to execute the press up lifts and various running leaps sprinkled throughout the grande pas de deux. Ludwinski proved herself capable of handling the exacting partner work as well as the fast foot work and exploding turn sequences in her solo section. Feril’s low center of gravity added extra excitement to his leaps and tour en l’airs to the knee. Other standouts in the second half include Lynnae Hodges’ wicked fast pirouettes in Spanish Chocolate, Bella Rusli’s unnatural body contortions in Arabian Coffee and the whole cast in the Waltz of the Flowers. The intricate pointe work of the soloists mixed with the various rhythmic patterns of the wreath holders transformed the stage into one big beautiful moving picture.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

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2014 Nutcracker Nuttiness

Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel
Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel

No matter where you live there is a Nutcracker performance waiting for you. Here’s a list of North Texas Nuts, plus other holiday dance.

From the big-budget dance companies such as Texas Ballet Theater and Moscow Ballet to the smaller, community-based companies, there is an enchanting Nutcracker performance for everyone to see. For those of you living North of Dallas there is the Allen Civic Ballet, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton and LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville. For audiences in the Richardson and Plano area the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts is hosting multiple Nutcracker performances the next two months, including Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet and Tuzer Ballet. For Garland residents there is Dallas Ballet Company’s annual production at the Granville Arts Center and for Irving patrons Ballet Ensembles of Texas’ showing of the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. If you prefer live music, check out LakeCities Ballet Theatre, Allen Civic Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker productions. For those looking for something a little different there’s 8&1 Dance Company’s In The Spirit and Ballet Concerto’s Holiday Special.

Full list and ticket information below:

Nov. 21-22

Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets $40-50. Call 817.689.7310 or visitwww.balletfrontier.org

Nov. 22-23

Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets $28-88. Call 800.745.3000 or visit www.tickmaster.com

Nov. 22

Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $35-40 Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 26

The Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano screen Getting to The Nutcracker, a documentary about what it takes to produce a production of the Nut, at 2 p.m. in both locations. www.angelikafilmcenter.com

Nov. 28-30

Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $12-100. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 28-Dec. 27

Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker, with the same extravagant sets and effects that we saw last year. Call 877.828.9200 or visit http://www.texasballettheater.org

  • Nov. 28-Dec.7 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
  • Dec. 12-27 at Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth
  • The Nutty Nutcracker is Dec. 19 at Bass Performance Hall

    LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
    LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

Nov. 29-30

LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. Tickets: $20-45. Call 972.317.7987 or visitwww.lakecitiesballet.org

Dec. 5-7

Dallas Ballet Company celebrates its 28th annual performance of The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, TX. Tickets: $23-24. Call 972.205.2790 or visit www.garlandarts.com

Dec. 6-7

North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $30. Visit www.nutcrackertickets.com

Dec. 6-7

Ballet Ensemble of Texas presents the holiday classic with guest artist Dallas Blagg and Gabriela Gonzalez from Tulsa Ballet at the Irving Arts Center. Tickets: $25-30. Call 972.252.2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 6-7

Rowlett Dance Academy presents its version of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. Tickets $10. Call 972.475.8269 or visit www.rowlettdanceacademy.com

Dec. 6-7

Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

Dec. 12-14

Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 13-14

Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton, TX. Tickets: $11-36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit www.festivalballet.net

Dec. 20-21

Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 20-21

The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday favorite with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen TX. Tickets: $15-30. Visitwww.allencivicballet.org/nutcracker

Dec. 22-23

Colin County Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Plano Symphony Orchestra at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $32-52. Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Other Holiday Dance

Dec. 5-7

Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Krum High School Performance Center in Krum, TX. Tickets: $12-18. Visit www.dentondance.com

Dec. 7

8&1 Dance Company’s annual In The Spirit holiday celebration at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visitwww.8and1dance.com

Dec. 12

Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special, with school performances at 10:30a.m. and 12:15p.m., and public performances at 7p.m. at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $5-20. Call 817.738.7915 or visitwww.balletconcerto.com

This list was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

A Look Back on 2013

Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia
Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia

2013 was full of big surprises for me both personally and professionally.

First, my husband and I welcomed our first child, a baby girl named Evelyn, on June 1. (She already has perfect turn out.) My husband and I are also celebrating our fifth year as Dallas residents. This may not mean much to some people, but this is the longest we have ever stayed in once place. And in those five years we got married, got a dog (Cleveland), brought a house and had a baby. My, we have been busy!

Professionally, I am celebrating my fifth year as a dance instructor at Amanda Dalton School of Dance. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I also can’t believe I have been working on my blog for three years and in that time have written more than 150 posts. I would love to surpass that number in 2014. I am also fortunate to have an outlet for my dance writing with TheaterJones.com and WorldArtsToday.com.

I truly am grateful to live in a city that values the arts. New dance companies like Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Avant Chamber Ballet were welcomed with opened arms by audiences this past year while established dance companies like Texas Ballet Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre continued to push boundaries and strengthen the art form.

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
Dallas Repertoire Ballet company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

But the city wouldn’t be the cultural mecca that it is today without the smaller local companies. My Nutcracker Roundup this year included more than 20 Nutcracker and Holiday performances. I was fortunate enough to review 5 of them.

LakeCities Ballet Theatre stood out for its use of live music; Texas Ballet Theater for its special effects and strong male dancers; Ballet Frontier of Texas for its simplicity; Ballet Ensemble of Texas for its pristine pointe work and uniformity; and Dallas Repertoire Ballet for its creative choreography and  musicality.

I did take a break from all the nuttiness by going to see Epiphany DanceArts’ heartfelt Christmas Memories production and Bruce Wood’s cabaret-inspired holiday show entitled Mistletoe Magic.

Another aspect of my job is interviewing choreographers from touring dance companies. I played it cool when I interviewed the legendary Paul Taylor and the new Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle back in April, but the dancer in me was shaking in her dance shoes.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Company B. Photo: Rex C. Curry
Paul Taylor Dance Company in Company B. Photo: Rex C. Curry

I also got to talk with Complexions’ co-founder Desmond Richardson who came to Dallas in March for TITAS’ highly anticipated Command Performance Gala. I even got to go backstage after the performance to meet Desmond face to face. (Getting back stage at the Winspear was like getting into the Pentagon. Even with an escort we had to go through multiple check points. It was totally awesome.)

For the first time ever dance dominated TITAS’ performance lineup. Companies including Stephen Petronio, Doug Varone, The Joffrey Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Grupo Corpo and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater all got their chance to perform in the state of the art Winspear Opera House.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Violet Kid. Photo by Juileta Cervantes
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Violet Kid. Photo by Juileta Cervantes

After reflecting on all the great performances from the last year I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!

And a big thank you to all my readers out there! I love writing for you and I plan to do a lot more of it. 🙂

Happy New Year!!! Keep Dancing!!!

Review: The Nutcracker, Dallas Repertoire Ballet

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

Winter Wonders 

Dallas Repertoire Ballet delivers a technically crisp and visually compelling rendition of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann.

Richardson — The weather was much more cooperative than last weekend for the Dallas Repertoire Ballet’s (DRB) annual production of The Nutcracker Friday evening at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. Creative dance numbers laced with challenging technique and visually pleasing props were all highlights of last year’s Nutcracker, and DRB didn’t disappoint with this year’s performance.

Choreographers Kathy Willsey, Megan Willsey Buckland and Audrey Rusher Mitts have that opening party scene down to a science. They replaced a lot of the gesturing typically seen (lots of hugging and air kisses) with more dancing. When Clara and her friends curtsy to one another they do it with a grande battementand soutenu turn. Pique arabesques and fast bourrees were executed with an exactness and finesse befitting a professional. It was also nice to see so many dancers working on pointe. If you got it, flaunt it and these young ladies have the foot strength and dexterity.

Most Claras dance very little in the first act and sit for most of the second act, but that was not the case with company member Alexandra Politz, age 17. Her natural grace and polished pointe work were featured throughout the show, including some lovely pas de deuxs with the Nutcracker Prince (guest artist Eric Coudron). While Politz’s maturity made her fascination with the toy Nutcracker a little less believable, it didn’t stop her from shining on stage.

The choreographers took the more comedic route with the battle scene and added a twist with the Rat Pack. The diva, the bookworm, the grandfather and the troublemaker drew laughs from the audience as they fought alongside the Rat King (Emma Voorhies). Kudos to whoever made the decision to have the Rat King and the Rat Pack perform in pointe shoes. In other productions the rats typically shuffle along in oversized costumes, but DRB again played to its strengths and used clean pointe work to keep the fight scene from becoming convoluted.

Executive Director Kathy Willsey also took a risk using one of her own dancers for the Snow Queen role (often played by guest artist professionals), which in the end paid off. Mackenzie Voorhies was a vision in white as she fluttered across the stage in a series ofbourrees, sliding into an arabesque hold with the help of her Snow King (guest artist David Freeland). The pair were well-matched in terms of build and prowess. They ate up the stage in their turning sequences and executed lift after lift without pause. While Voorhies sometimes tightened her shoulders in the press up lifts, there was an undeniable ethereal quality about her.

The snow dance was absolutely exquisite. No less than 30 dancers flew across the stage creating some of the most intricate weaving and circling formations I have seen in this dance. The little sparkling pompoms the dancers carried enhanced the moments when only the wrists were moving, resembling snow falling.

The refined, uniformed dancing continued in the second act where Clara and her Prince are welcomed to the Land of Snow by the Sugar Plum Fairy (company member Megan Schonberg) and Cavalier (guest artist Jamal White). Don’t mistake Schonberg’s lithe shape for fragility. Her pointe work was sharp and deliberate and she could turn on a dime. Even though White’s extensions didn’t quite reach past his toes, he has amazing charisma and was a very intuitive partner. If Schonberg started to lean a little to the left in her multiplepirouettes, White simply readjusted his hold.

All the cultural dances in the second act were fun and exciting. Hannah Morris gave a spunky performance in the Spanish Chocolate number while Bella Rusli showed off her controlled jumps in the Chinese Tea section. Grace Ludwinski displayed her flexibility in a series of backbends and behind the head leg extensions with the assistance of David Freeland in the Arabian dance. Eric Coudron took on the role of Russian Baba and performed a number of nimble toe touches much to the audiences delight.

Mackenzie Voorhies as the Dew Drop Fairy (right). Photo: Courtesy of DRB
Mackenzie Voorhies as the Dew Drop Fairy (right). Photo: Courtesy of DRB

But none of these solo performances would have been complete without the help of the dance corps. Most noteworthy were the Arabian corps’ slowly descending splits, the Reed Pipers’ manipulations with the ribbons, the candy canes spinning hula hoops and, of course, the gorgeous arching wreaths in the Waltz of the Flowers.

Like the snow scene, the Waltz of the Flowers was dreamy yet dynamic. Soft turning balances were followed by lighting quick piqueturns. Politz and Coudron performed a quick yet energetic pas de deux before Schonberg and White entered for the grande pas deux. Props to Schonberg for handling those slow arabesque turns and over the shoulder pitches without hesitation. There was some tricky choreography in that section and both she and White handled it with ease.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

Photo: Ellen Appel Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker
Photo: Ellen Appel
Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker

The holiday season is upon us, and you know what that means: The Nutcracker. Here’s our round-up of local Nutcrackers, plus non-Nut holiday dance.

It’s the holidays, and in the dance world, that means nuts are about to be crackin’ all over the place. North Texas will be filled with performances of The Nutcracker, which means box offices will be singing, parents and grandparents will be thrilled at seeing their kids in the party scene, and little girls will see the Sugar Plum Fairy and be inspired to take ballet lessons.

Beginning this weekend, as the Moscow Ballet returns, you can see at least one performance of The Nutcracker each weekend if you like, right up through a few days before Christmas. We’ve also included some pretty different takes on The Nut, as the dancers call it, from theater outfits Dallas Children’s Theater (marionettes!) and MBS Productions (burlesque!).

And, because there are a few brave dance companies out there willing to do a holiday dance production sans the Snow Queen, we’ve also included the few non-Nut shows.

LET’S START WITH THOSE:

Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma Nov. 22 – 24 at Krum High School Performance Center in Krum, Texas. Ticket Office: www.dentondance.com

Contemporary Ballet Dallas presents a Boogie Woogie Christmas Carol, inspired by the Dickens tale, Dec. 7 at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Ticket Office:www.contemporaryballetdallas.com

Dallas Metropolitan Ballet presents The Night Before Christmas Dec. 14 – Dec. 15 at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium in Dallas. Tickets: $10 – $40. Ticket Office: www.ticketmaster.com or call 214-631-2787 or 817-467-2787

Epiphany DanceArts presents Christmas Memories Dec. 20-21 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, Texas. Tickets: $15 – $29. Ticket Office:www.epiphanydancearts.org or call 972-744-4650

AND NOW, THE NUTCRACKERS:

Moscow Ballet brings back The Great Russian Nutcracker to Dallas Nov. 15 and Nov. 17 at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets: $28. Ticket Office: www.nutcracker.com or call 800-320-1733

Ballet Frontier of Texas presents its rendition of The Nutcracker Nov. 22 – 23 at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas. Tickets: $25. Ticket Office: www.balletfrontier.org

MBS Productions returns with its annual revival of the comedy The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents a Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, in which a burlesque troupe saves the day in a small Texas town by performing the holiday classic. Nov 23-Dec. 29 at the Stone Cottage on the campus of the Addison Theatre Centere. Tickets: $18-$27. Ticket Office: www.mbsproductions.net

Chamberlain Performing Arts presents The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet principal dancers Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, Texas. Ticket Office: www.eisemanncenter.com or call 972-744-4650

Texas Ballet Theater presents Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker which runs Nov. 29 – Dec. 8 at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas and Dec. 13 – 27 at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Ticket Office: www.texasballettheater.org

Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Art’s presents its interpretation of The Nutcracker Nov. 29 – Dec. 22 at the Dallas Children’s Theater in Dallas. Tickets: $13 – $40. Ticket Office: www.dct.org or call 214-740-0051

Photo: Karen Almond Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts' The Nutcracker at Dallas Children's Theater
Photo: Karen Almond
Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ The Nutcracker at Dallas Children’s Theater

LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s rendition of The Nutcracker runs Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, and Dec. 14 – 15 at Little Elem Recreation Center. Ticket Office: www.lakecitiesballet.com

Momentum Dance Company does The Nutcracker with guests Michele Gifford, Shea Johnson and Bruce Coleman. Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Irving Arts Center. Tickets: $15-$25. Ticket Office: www.irvingartscenter or call 972-252-2787

Dallas Ballet Company will be celebrating its 27th annual performance of The Nutcracker Dec. 6 – Dec. 8 at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, Texas. Tickets: $23. Ticket Office: www.garlandarts.com or call 972-205-2790

The Dallas Youth Ballet presents The Nutcracker Dec. 7 at the new Dallas City Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District. Tickets: $15 – $35. Ticket Office: www.thedallasconservatory.org or call 214-357-8888

The Ballet Ensemble of Texas brings its rendition of The Nutcracker to the Irving Arts Center Dec. 7 – 8. Tickets: $21-$26. Ticket Office: www.irvingartscenter or call 972-252-2787

The Dallas Repertoire Ballet presents The Nutcracker Dec.13-15 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, Texas. Tickets: $15 – $50. Ticket Office: www.eisemanncenter.com or call 972-744-4650

Festival Ballet of North Central Texas will be performing The Nutcracker Dec. 14 – 15 at the Margo Jones Performance Hall at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Tickets: $11 – $36. Ticket Office: www.festivalballet.net or call 940-891-0830

For a more adult Nutcracker performance Texas Ballet Theater offers The Nutty Nutcracker, a collaborative work between artistic staff and dancers featuring hot topics of the past 12 months. The performance is slated for Dec. 20 at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Ticket Office: www.texasballettheater.org

Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker Dec. 21-22 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, Texas. Tickets: $15 – $50. Ticket Office: www.eisemanncenter.com or call 972-744-4650

The Allen Civic Ballet presents its 15th anniversary production of The Nutcracker Dec. 21 – Dec. 22 at the Performing Arts Center at Allen High School. Tickets: $15 – $30. Ticket Office: www.allencivicballet.org

Collin County Ballet Theatre presents The Nutcracker Dec. 23-24 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, Texas. Tickets: $15 – $75. Ticket Office: www.eisemanncenter.com or call 972-744-4650

This roundup was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Choreographic Chops

Choreographer Bree Hafen. Photo: Elizabeth Leighton
Choreographer Bree Hafen. Photo: Elizabeth Leighton

A Q&A with Bree Hafen on transitioning into the role of choreographer and her first full-length show, [+] SPACE.

Richardson — Local Choreographer Bree Hafen is making the leap onto the national dance scene with her first full-length show, [+] SPACE.  Last year Hafen was honored at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards for her chorographic style. As part of the recognition she will get to put on a full-length show at the Ailey Theatre in New York City this summer. But first Hafen will premiere [+] SPACE for Dallas audiences, July 26 and 28, at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson.

Along with the Dallas Repertoire Ballet, [+] SPACE will also feature dance celebrities Chelsie Hightower, Billy Bell, Janelle Issis, Thayne Jasperson and Nicki Loud. These guest performers will also be teaching a series of master classes at Academy of Dance Arts, July 26-29, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Originally from Utah, Bree Hafen trained under Colleen Smith (student of William F. Christensen,) Lauralyn Kofford and many others at Center Stage Performing Arts. She has served as president and choreographer of the BYU Cougarettes and toured the U.S. and Europe with Odyssey Dance Theater before putting her professional career on hold to become a mom. Hafen currently teaches at Academy of Dance Arts in Allen and was a featured contestant at the Dallas auditions for Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance.

TheaterJones asks Bree Hafen about the inspiration behind [+] SPACE, breaking into the choreography side of the industry and why she chose to premiere her show in Dallas.

TheaterJones: What are the Capezio A.C.E. Awards?

Bree Hafen: It’s a choreography competition hosted by Capezio and Break the Floor Productions and it’s really the only one of its kind for professional choreographers. What happens is you submit a video to their website and out of several hundred videos they select 16 choreographers to come to New York and present their work in front of some of the top choreographers in the country. I was fortunate enough be one of those 16 choreographers. So, I took five of my dancers to New York where they competed with my dance Terminal Soul which is about someone dealing with a terminal illness. The judges liked it so much that they awarded it one of the top three honors. And one of the perks of being top three is that we get to put on a full-length show of our own work the following summer in New York City.

What was your reaction when you found out you won?

Being a newcomer in my industry I really went into this thinking I had nothing to lose. So, when I was contacted that I had been chosen I was so excited. I am very confident about my work and I know that I have been able to create things that people appreciate and really enjoying watching, but I was up against names that politically should have been chosen over me. So, I was very pleased that they found the desire to give me the opportunity even though I am not one of the big names. And with that said, to be announced as one of the winners against 16 pretty well known choreographers was absolutely amazing. I really love teaching high school aged kids, but my dream has always been to have a company of my own and this has really given me that opportunity.

What is the inspiration for your show, [+] SPACE?

In artistic terms it means to have things close together, but the way I’m using it is kind of a play on words to encourage a more uplifting and wholesome genre of the arts. I know that dance sometimes gets a bad rap for being overly sexualized. A lot of the Broadway shows today you would never bring your 12-year-old son to. I wanted to create a place where people can come and really feel uplifted and inspired without having to compromise their standards. The same goes for my dancers. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to doing anything they felt uncomfortable with. I just wanted to create something very moving and positive.

How would you describe your movement style?

Courtesy of Bree Hafen
Courtesy of Bree Hafen

I do not pigeonhole my style because I really love to create movement in all different genres. I would say my specialty is probably contemporary, but I also love to create musical theatre, lyrical and jazz pieces. I really love to do it all!

What would you say are your strengths as a choreographer?

My strength as a choreographer is in storytelling for sure. I am able to use movement to really weave a story in a dance and that is something that will be essential in [+] SPACE. For the people that come to the show it will not be just movement to music. There are definitely storylines and it is definitely relatable.

What can you tell me about the pieces we will be seeing?

My first piece is about the different stereotypes. The dancers are in groups wearing different colors and there’s one dancer who’s trying to bring everyone to the attention that we are all the same on the inside. As the dance goes on their colors come off and the dancers are all in basic black and they come to recognize their alikeness vs. their differences. The second dance is more of a narrative about the rich vs. the poor in the 1920’s. It’s kind of detailing how this homeless community doesn’t have money but they have so much love and connection with one another while the rich family has everything they could ever want; however, their lives are kind of empty. And the third piece is a real tear-jerker. It’s about a wife who goes to war and doesn’t make it and comes back in the form of an angel to help her husband find new love.

How did you help your dancers commit to the storylines in your pieces?

I was very picky with the adults that I chose for the company because I knew I needed dancers who could emote in a very natural and heartfelt way. I don’t have to push them too much. I feel like they really commit to what they are doing. However, one thing that I do stress in rehearsals is the sensitive nature of the things that we are portraying. So, we spend a lot of time talking about if we touch someone this way it feels like we are saying one thing and if we touch someone another way it feels like we are saying something different. I am very specific about the tiny details in the choreography so that it all reads in a very real way. I never want anything I produce to be perceived as melodramatic.

Courtesy of Bree Hafen
Courtesy of Bree Hafen

Why did you decide to premiere the show here in Dallas?

After the A.C.E. Awards I came back and talked to Kathy Willsey, Executive Director of the Dallas Repertoire Ballet, and we decided that we definitely wanted to give Dallas a chance to see the show before we went to New York. Around this time last year she wanted to produce a show featuring all my work. When the A.C.E. awards happened, her idea then became a reality. Dallas is such an arts community. The city has such an appreciation for the arts and we wanted to continue to foster that. The more that’s nourished here in Dallas the better it’s going to be for tourism and the economy. It’s something we are really passionate about and we have already started asking for grants and funding for next summer.

Was it an easy decision to involve the Dallas Repertoire Ballet in your show?

Yes, it was. Dallas Repertoire Ballet is a 501(c)3 non-profit so, Kathy was able to help me find donors since putting on a production like this is extremely expensive. Kathy was more than happy to get involved and she really wanted to be a driving force with this show. She believes in me more than I believe in myself. And all the parents at Academy of Dance Arts and the DRB Board felt the same way. I couldn’t have done this without their support.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com