Tag Archives: Paige Nyman

Review: Nutcracker, Ballet Ensemble of Texas

Ballet Ensemble of Texas enchants audiences with its wonderfully musical and technically creative version of The Nutcracker in Irving.

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Masumi Yoshimoto and Brett Young as the Snow Queen and King. Photo: Cathy Vanover

Irving — Of the multiple pre-professional Nutcrackers I’ve been able to see this season, Ballet Ensemble of Texas’ (BET) annual production of the holiday classic, which they performed at the Irving Arts Center last Saturday night, contained some of the most complex and inventive choreography thus far, particularly in the cultural dances in Act II. BET Director Allan Kinzie and his choreographic team, including company advisor Lisa Slagle, Tammie Reinsch and Allison D’Auteuil Whitfield did a commendable job of showcasing the company’s ever-growing technical proficiency, athletic fortitude and personal expressiveness through creative dance sequences jam packed with fast pointe work, intricate petit jumping sequences with changing epaulement and visually exciting movement contagions and formation changes. Add in the vibrant décor, jewel-encrusted costuming and some exuberant performances from local guest artists from Texas Ballet Theater (TBT), and BET has another successful Nutcracker production to add to their books.

There were some minor discrepancies between the first and second half of the show. Act I started on a slower note with some timing issues and fluctuating energy levels in the children’s dances in the party scene, but the show gained momentum during the battle scene and ended with a spectacular snow scene featuring BET company member Masumi Yoshimoto  and TBT’s Brett Young in the coveted Snow Queen and King roles. The choreographers prevented overcrowding in the party scene with well-planned traffic patterns and minimal stage props. This in turn gave the well-played adult guests more room to waltz and the children more space to chasse around in a giant circle. And while occasionally musically out of sync during the adagio doll dance, viewers couldn’t miss the young girls’ beautiful presentation of the foot before each pique step and their high releves in the bourrees and soutenu turns.

Sheridan Guerin and Kinzie were both steadfast in their roles as Clara and Drosselmeyer. A former dancer with the Boston Ballet, Kinzie captivated audiences with his grandfatherly mannerisms and musical awareness when presenting Clara with her Nutcracker doll. Guerin drew us in with her angelic demeanor, but she held our attention with her clean lines and super-flexible feet, which were most pronounced when she executed an arabesque hold or bourrée step. One of the sweetest moments in the party scene came when Guerin and Kinzie fed off each other’s energy in one of the partner dances.

Yoshimoto and Young handled the complicated choreography in the Snow pas de deux with dignity and boundless energy. The movement showcased their expert facility and amazing body control through numerous assistedpirouettes, sustained arabesque balances, opposing body angles and no more than five press up lifts and shoulder sits. There were a few instances where the couple’s movement felt rushed especially in some of the assisted turns, but both dancers quickly adjusted their tempos to stay in time with Tchaikovsky’s driving score. The 16 snowflakes perfectly captured the nuances in the music with their springy footwork and sequential arm movements as well as their creative use of space and opposing rhythms.

The second half of the show was more consistent in terms of technique and performance quality and featured some exceptional dancing from certain company members and TBT guest artists Paige Nyman and Paul Adams as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier.

Raquel Gamboa, Lisette Hotz, Hannah Menchu and Melynda Phillips performed the musical fan flicks and sharp leg lifts in the Spanish variation in perfect unison while Ryan Nemmers executed a series of double pirouettes and touren l’airs. The young men of BET which included Joseph Dang, Michael Fass, Nemmers, Adam Phillips and Akihiro Yoshimoto showed off their athletic dexterity and genuine charm in the widely popular Russian piece with multiple toe touches, double knee jumps and round houses. And while Helena Cerny and Phillips struggled with some of the hand holds and foot placements in the Dewdrop Fairy pas de deux, the couple pushed through to deliver some stunning moving pictures. Soloists Jordan Carter, Ana Denton, Menchu and Juliana Yu are proving themselves worthy of future leading roles with their exacting pointe work and beautifully controlled body positions in the Waltz of the Flowers.

BET is also the only pre-professional company that includes the Hungarian dance in its Nutcracker production. The repetitive rhythmic foot stomping and staccato arm placements were quite simple, but the steadily building tempo added a layer of anticipation of which none of the other dances could match.

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Paige Nyman and Paul Adams as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. Photo: Cathy Vanover

The stars of the night were Nyman and Adams in the grand pas de deux. Both dancers are rising through the ranks of Texas Ballet Theater and have shown steady improvement both technically and artistically speaking over the last year. The couple executed the tricky counterbalance holds and multiple reverse promenades throughout the piece without a stumble. Adams pushed his stamina to the limit with consecutive turning jetes, double tours to the knee and multiple front and back cabrioles while Nyman performed the delicate pointe work and fast-paced fouette turns at the end with swan-like poise.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

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Review: Ballet Frontier of Texas, An Evening of Ballet

Texas Ballet Theater's Robin Bangert and Paul Adams in BFT's verision of The Firebird.
Texas Ballet Theater’s Robin Bangert and Paul Adams in BFT’s verision of The Firebird

FLAME ON

Ballet Frontier of Texas enthralls with its rendition of The Firebird and gives homage to Tchaikovsky during An Evening of Ballet.

Fort Worth — Vibrant costumes, elaborate scenery, dramatic lighting and dynamic guest artists: Ballet Frontier of Texas (BFT) went all out for its production of The Firebird, part of its An Evening of Ballet program. They were rewarded with a standing ovation Sunday afternoon at the W.E. Scott Theatre in Fort Worth.

The tale depicts Prince Ivan’s encounter with the Firebird in the garden of the evil Tsar Kashchei. Ivan catches the Firebird and agrees to release her in exchange for one of her feathers. In the next scene Ivan meets the beautiful Helen and asks Kashchei for her hand in marriage. He refuses and sends his creatures to kill Ivan. The Prince calls upon the Firebird and together they defeat the creatures and destroy the magical egg that holds Kashchei’s soul. In the final scene order is restored to the kingdom and Ivan and Helen are wed.

BFT Artistic Director Chung-Lin Tseng sticks close to the original libretto written by Alexandre Benois for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, but adds a prologue to enlighten audiences as to how Kashchei becomes evil. He accomplishes this in three short scenes: in the first the villagers are trying to pick the golden apple from the tree, then they bring it to the king and we watch as he transforms into the evil Kashchei. Even though the blackouts between scenes were slightly disorientating the prologue was a welcomed addition, and Guest Artist Michael Clark was the epitome of evil with his searing eyes and puffed up chest.

Texas Ballet Theater’s Robin Bangert gave a fierce yet poised performance as the Firebird. She tested her limits with unending lines and lightning fast bourrees done in perfect time to Igor Stravinsky’s quick, staccato composition. Bangert’s luminous red and orange tutu and matching feather headpiece only accentuated her natural skill and beauty. Texas Ballet Theater’s Paul Adams was a strong match for Bangert. A confidant partner, Adams leads Bangert through a series of rotating arabesque and ponche balances with ease. And his transition from hunter to lover is seamless. Paige Nyman’s willowy frame, soft lines and expressive eyes made her the ideal choice to play Helen.

Tseng smartly crafted the work to highlight his company’s strengths. The younger students completely immersed themselves in their creature roles, hissing and scratching as they roamed around on all fours. Adorned in long white dresses and sparking crowns, the princesses showcased their adequate pointe work and knack for gentle arcing movement. A lovely moment occurred as they stood in two diagonal lines with arms crossed at the wrists, backs arched. And while the four flames (Mickayla Carr, Maria Howard, Carli Petri and Jacey Thompson) lost their facial expressions a couple of times they made it through the rest of their allegro sequences unscathed.

Tseng put the company’s stamina to the test in the first half of the show with three fast paced, movement packed pieces to music composed by P.I. Tchaikovsky. Like watching a sprint February (Carnival) and Piano Concerto No. 1, 3rd Movement were over much too soon. The movement appeared as one lengthy phrase of chaines, doubles turns, leaps and traveling steps. Timing was an issue in both, but the dancers delivered on the entertainment. Tseng’s Serenade Melancolique was the complete opposite of the other two numbers. Three couples (Adams, Nyman, Clark, Bangert, Shane Howell and Carli Perti) took turns executing slow, fluid movement that displaying some of the most beautiful and innovative lifts and body shapes. Tseng must have felt like a kid in a candy store working with these strong and capable individuals. The couple’s came together at the end to strike three ethereal poses while bathed in spotlight. As the only BFT company member in the piece Petri held her own with her limber body and graceful lines.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.