Tag Archives: Shannon Beacham

Review: Nutcracker, LakeCities Ballet Theatre

LakeCities Ballet Theatre offer up a visual feast of vibrant dancing and stellar guest artists in honor of its 25th production of The Nutcracker.

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LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s 25th annual presentation of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch

Flower Mound — With stunning sets, exquisite dancing and live musical accompaniment provided by the Lewisville Lake Symphony, it’s no wonder LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s (LBT) annual production of the Nutcracker is one of the top items on people’s to do list every holiday season. This year’s Nutcracker performance was especially festive as it not only marked the company’s 25th anniversary of the holiday classic but was also the first time LBT sold out both showings at Marcus High School in Flower Mound this past weekend. This Nutcracker production also marks a transitional year for the company as many of its senior members graduated last spring, including Sydney Greene, Ali Honchell and Mackenna Pieper, giving members the opportunity to set up to the plate.

For those needing a refresher, the Nutcracker ballet is divided into two acts. The first includes a large party scene where our heroine Clara receives a Nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. When Clara goes to sleep that night she dreams of a battle between the Rat King and her Nutcracker Prince and also the Kingdom of Sweets where couple’s from different nationalities, including Russia, China and Spain perform for the reigning couple. After the climactic Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier pas de deux, Clara returns to her bed where she awakens from this wondrous dream.

Sarah Lane and Daniel Ulbricht in the grand pas de deux in The Nutcracker at LakeCities Ballet Theatre. Photo: Nancy Loch

In LBT’s version, audiences are immediately pulled into the story as families heading to the Silberhaus’ annual Christmas party marched down the aisles and up onto the stage. Former English National Ballet dancer Kenn Wells (Herr Drosselmeyer) keeps the audience connected as he gestures to us to help him find the location of the party. Artistic Director Kelly Lannin’s fine eye for details, imaginative choreography and quirky sense of humor are on display throughout the party scene from the inventive adult and children dance sequences to Wells’ well-timed practical jokes and Mayor Silberhaus’ (Chuck Denton) over-the-top facial expressions especially after he ingests one too many holiday spirits. Not everyone may have noticed, but Denton also smoothly orchestrated almost every transition in the party scene from the lighting of the tree and the puppet show to the presentation of the Ballerina and Cadet dolls. Madeline Hanly and guest artist Ruben Gerding perfectly captured the doll’s unyielding forms with their pursed lips, angular arm gestures and jerky upper body movements.

Carly Greene shone in the role of Clara. Her natural grace and infectious personality were enhanced by her poignant pointe work and passionate character portrayal. Unlike other productions where Clara does very little after the first half, Lannin gives Greene many opportunities to flex her technical muscles throughout the show, much to the viewers delight. The only instance I am on the fence about is Lannin’s decision to feature Greene and guest artist Jack Wolff (Nutcracker Prince) at the beginning of the Snow Scene, a spot that is typically reserved for the Snow Queen and King pas de deux. Don’t misunderstand, Greene and Wolff nailed every singlearabesque hold, assisted pirouette and various sustained body movements, but their performance just couldn’t match up to the exciting lifts and complex pointe work that Mackenna Pieper and Shannon Beacham have perfected over the years in their roles of Snow Queen and King. Pieper, who graduated last year, has left some hard shoes to fill and it will be interesting to see who rises to the challenge. Adult member Faith Jones’ super long legs and penchant for beautifully controlled movements would fit the role nicely as would Carley Denton’s commanding stage presence and regal posturing.

The cast carried the party vibe over into the second half with more lively and technically brilliant performances by both LBT company members and special guests Sarah Lane (American Ballet Theatre) and Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Denton was fun and flirty as the lead of the Spanish dancers, deftly guiding the rest of the corp, including Chloe Davis, Ashleigh Eaton, Kelsey Rhinehelder and Mikaela Seale through a series of rhythmic hands claps and fast foot work. Jones and Beacham displayed amazing control and dexterity in the Arabian dance especially when Jones bent backwards and held onto her foot while Beacham rotated her in a circle. Guest Artist Andre Harrington got the audience up and cheering with his consecutive back handsprings, while a surprise appearance by former Dallas Cowboys player Isaiah Stanback in the role of Mother Ginger sporting a Cowboys jersey and helmet on top of the large colorful skirt housing eight tiny dancers had the audience in stitches.

Lane and Ulbricht were sublime in the grand pas de deux at the end of the show. They executed the controlledpromenades, ponche arabesques and shifting epaulement phrases in a calm and fluid manner. Lane’s breathy exhales during her multiple pirouettes and various jumping sequences made her moves appear bigger and bolder. Ulbricht’s incredible artistry and athleticism are well known in the ballet world. He eats up the space with his gravity defying jetes and barely makes a sound when he drops to his knee after performing consecutive tours en l’air.

Lannin and her team should be proud of the whimsical and welcoming Nutcracker production they have diligently fostered over the last 25 years. I’m looking forward to seeing how the younger dancers progress into the ballet’s more challenging roles in the coming years.

This review was originally posted  on TheaterJones.com.

 

Review: LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Dracula

This was the first ballet I brought my daughter to and she did great. She is 2 1/2 and sat through the whole first half. The second half was a little scary so my husband took her into the lobby. I recommend this show for anyone with little kids.

Photo: Nancy Loch
Photo: Nancy Loch

LakeCities Ballet Theatre sucks audiences in with brilliant dancing and dramatic special effects at its 10th annual Le Ballet de Dracula in Lewisville.

Lewisville — After a decade, it’s natural for a ballet to start to lose some of its luster. But that’s not the case with LakeCities Ballet Theatre‘s Halloween spook-tacular, Le Ballet de Dracula, which played to a sold-out crowd for the troupe’s 10th-anniversary show on Saturday at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theatre.

Having seen this production many times before, I can honestly say the ballet gets visually and technically stronger every year thanks to Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin’s fine choreographic detailing and continous production enhancements, including set designs, costuming and special effects that always seem to bring audiences to the edge of their seats.

The show’s popularity can also be attributed to Tom Rutherford’s well-conceived narrative and creative mash-up of characters including Ratcliff (the quirky sidekick), weolas (batlike creatures) and a dozen vampire brides.

Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, LBT’s version illustrates the love triangle between Aurelia, Marius and Dracula in two well-balanced acts. In the first half the villagers, gypsies and Romanians all come together to celebrate the engagement of Aurelia (Carley Denton) and Marius (guest artist Steven Loch of Pacific Northwest Ballet).

The company members demonstrated great animation and agility in the specialized group dances, which featured various movement styles, including soft-shoe ballet, pointe, jazz, modern and even some folk dance. The Romanian dancers’ rhythmic foot stomps and traveling shuffle steps were accompanied by simple arm gestures and crisp formation changes.

The gypsies, led by Denise Clarkston, used an array of hip isolations and open-armed twirling phrases to depict their rebellious nature. Aurelia’s friends (Chloe Davis, Kristina Lorelli, Carly Greene, Julie Fenske, Madeline Hanly and Julia Tiller) proved why LBT is one of the most sought after pre-professional ballet companies in the Dallas area with their exacting pointe work, beautiful musicality and commanding stage presence.

One of the newer additions to the show was a musically enchanting pas de deux with company member Michelle Lawyer and guest artist Dan Westfield pf Ballet Frontier of Texas. Lawyer’s lithe frame and nimble point work balanced out Westfield’s wider frame and explosive jump sequences.

In the partnering sections each pulled from the other’s strengths and suddenly Lawyer’s sautés were as high as Westfield’s, and his arms placement and fourth lunges were just as soft as Lawyer’s. The exchanging of the tambourine throughout the pas de duex was perfectly timed and added a new musical layer to the dance.

Carley Denton’s role as Aurelia was well-earned. Her flexibility and stamina has improved over the last year, demonstrated through her various sustained body positions and lightning-quick pique turns. She has also found the key to releasing the tension in her shoulders with the help of certain breathing techniques.

Steven Loch continues to breathe new life into the role of Marius with his limitless energy and technical fortitude. The couple’s pas de deux was a lovely display of unending lines and counterbalance poses topped with Denton’s six continuous pirouettes into a luxurious body dip at the end.

The maypole dance that Lannin incorporated about six years ago remains one of the highlights of the first half. In this scene 12 dancers frolicked around a 15-foot pole, creating an intricate weaving pattern with the brightly colored streamers they carried. Rhythmic clapping accompanied the dancers’ spritely skips and gallop steps.

The mood changed drastically when Dracula (Shannon Beacham) and his minion Ratcliff (Asia Waters) arrived to lure Aurelia away from her family and Marius. Over the years Beacham has perfected the role of Dracula, from his menacing walks and nuanced cape flicks to the overly dramatic facial expressions.

Smoke machines and special lighting techniques succeeded in creating the illusion of Dracula appearing out of thin air. The dim lighting, ominous music and ghostly appearance of Dracula’s brides in the second half evenly matched the dancers’ loose, hanging arms, soundless bourrees across the floor and vacant expressions.

Julia Tiller (Marcela) set the tone at the beginning of the scene with her solid pointe work and expansive arm-gesturing. The fight scene between Loch and Beacham started off spotty with some lengthy pauses between their physical exchanges, but they quickly found their rhythm. Mindful of the young ones in the audience, the really heavy moments were lightened by Waters’ constant wandering and clumsy interactions with the brides.

Wildly creative, meticulously produced and cleverly choreographed, LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Le Ballet de Dracula is sure to continue entertaining audiences for the next 10 years.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Review: Music In Motion, LakeCities Ballet Theatre

LakeCities Ballet Theatre performs a season finale program called Music in Motion. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
LakeCities Ballet Theatre performs a season finale program called Music in Motion. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

LakeCities Ballet Theatre closes its season with fresh moves and dexterous classical technique during its spring performance.

Lewisville — Don’t let the name fool you. LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT) is much more than a pre-professional ballet company, and they proved that Saturday night with Music In Motion at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville, ending their season on a high note. Known for their exuberant story ballets and exquisite technique, it may have surprised some to see the company attacking other dance styles such as modern, jazz and contemporary with the same boldness they do classical ballet.

The show opened with a flirty, baroque-fashioned pointe number choreographed by LBT staff member and Juilliard alum Deborah Weaver called Les Oiseaux de Ville. Weaver’s trained ear picked up on all the instrumental nuances in Aram Khachaturian’s composition which added new vigor to the art form’s unchanging technique. For example,pique arabesques finished with flexed palms and bourrees executed with fluttering hands drew attention to the music’s various instrumental phrases. The gold-laced, fingerless gloves which matched the 12 dancers’ gold and white knee-length tutus boosted the visual appeal of these movements. Weaver’s expanding and contracting formation changes and explosive cotangent sequences were also visually stunning.

Shannon Beacham’s Urban Perfume was the biggest surprise of the evening. Set to music by Sven Helbig this contemporary jazz number, performed in soft shoe, featured daring leaps, aggressive runs and simultaneous head and body isolations. The piece started with the six dancers stepping into second position with a contracted torso and arms thrusting down and away from the body. The phrase was repeated as the dancers switch places. As the music built the running became more frantic till the dancers exploded into fouette arabesque leaps and head-whackingbattements. Beacham’s time with Texas Ballet Theater and the Bruce Wood Dance Company showed through his quirky, yet controlled body movements and the opposing tempos he assigned each dancer during certain sections. The dim lighting and shimmering biketards added to the suspense of the piece. Even through the ending was a little underwhelming with the dancers simply running off stage, the core material of the work was still edgy and inspiring.

LBT in Shannon Beacham's Urban Perfume. Photo: Nancy Loch Photogrpahy
LBT in Shannon Beacham’s Urban Perfume. Photo: Nancy Loch Photogrpahy

Pulling double duty as choreographer and performer, Beacham and his wife Christa were phenomenal in their roles as Romeo and Juliet in the ballet’s balcony Pas de Deux. Every caress and assisted lift exuded passion. The trust between the two was undeniable as Christa catapulted herself into Beacham’s arms only to be pressed up into a standing position above his head. The traveling steps for the pair may have been simple but the assisted pirouetteturns and alternating ponche arabesque holds were anything but. Sergei Prokofiev’s heart-wrenching composition only enhanced the couple’s star-crossed love for one another.

LBT 2 Director Shannon Tate’s Where the Sun is Silent challenged the dancers with its modern verbiage and dramatic storyline. Dressed in black liturgical dresses the 10-member group started clumped together arching back and reaching in different directions. The movement encompassed various modern dance techniques, including Martha Graham’s signature contractions and back hinges as well as Lester Horton’s lateral T’s and general ferocity.

The first act ended with LBT Assistant Director Nancy Loch’s rock ballet Move It! which the company premiered in 1998. Dressed all in black with music by Church of Rhythm this funky pointe number transported the audience back to the 90s’. This 17-person ensemble moved with The Rockettes precision as they shifted into a straight line and moved clockwise around the stage on pointe. The walking which made up a majority of the piece was accompanied by hand gestures resembling Madonna’s 1990 Vogue video.

In the second half LBT revealed what they do best in Joseph Mazilier and Marius Petipa’s Paquita. Known as one of the most technically challenging 19th century ballets, Paquita demanded serious control, technical brilliance and unending endurance from the LBT dancers. The first thing audience members noticed was that in many sections the corps mirrored the movement of Principal Dancer Mackenna Pieper. While one or two arabesque holds where not quite aligned with the rest overall the corp gave a strong unified performance. Ali Honchell, Michelle Lawyer and Beacham excelled in the multi-tempoed Pas de Trois. The female’s solos were filled with complex entrechats (a weaving jump from fifth) with multiple beats, double pique turns and grand jetes which they handled with poise. And Beacham seamlessly maneuvered both dancers through a series of composed arabesque and attitude holds.

Steven Loch and Mackenna Pieper in Paquita. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
Steven Loch and Mackenna Pieper in Paquita. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

Guest Artist Steven Loch was a powerful force in the pas de deux, but the shining star of the evening was Pieper as Paquita. Tall and leggy Pieper gave each slow developpe arabesque its due. Pieper also managed the quickpirouettes and cabriole soutenu sections with exemplary control and fiery spirit. Overall Paquita was a great match for LakeCities Ballet Theatre. The ballet’s detailed classicism, specifically the proper epaulement (upper body positioning), is one of the many skills Artistic Director Kelly Lannin has drilled into her dancers’ bodies with great results.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.