Tag Archives: Tiler Peck

Review: The Nutcracker, Chamberlain Performing Arts

Holiday Highs

Chamberlain Performing Arts delivers another delightful showing of The Nutcracker to a packed audience at the Eisemann.

The Nutcracker from Chamberlain Performing Arts. Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image

Richardson — There are only a few Nutcracker productions that I would be willing to see year after year in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Chamberlain Performing Arts’ (CPA) annual The Nutcracker definitely makes the list based on the following criteria: Location, special guests and entertainment value.

Conveniently located right off Central Expressway and the President George Bush Turnpike, the Eisenman Center for Performing Arts is an easy drive for those living in North Dallas and Collin County. Parking is a breeze and there is no bad view of the stage anywhere in the 1,550-seat Hill Performance Hall, which was more than half full at CPA’s Saturday afternoon showing of The Nutcracker. The large stage easily accommodated all of the company’s vibrant set designs, including a portable sleigh, a large grandfather clock, and a twinkling Christmas tree that grows to twice its size during the show. Glitzy costumes in an array of festive colors and well-suited lighting as well as a reliable sound system all created a sturdy foundation for the CPA dancers and guests, which included Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle of New York City Ballet.

This is the fourth time I have seen Peck and Angle perform as The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in CPA’s Nutcracker and these two crush these roles every year. Their musicality and performance quality undeniable as was evident in their lifts, dips and transitions between body frames in the grand pas de deux. Both demonstrated unyielding strength and control during their solo sections in which Peck effortlessly completes a series of piques in a large circle while Angle ate up the stage with his grand jetes and front and back traveling brises.

It was also a pleasant surprise to see Adrian Aguirre of Bruce Wood Dance in the Arabian variation and in the mighty role of Snow King. His upper body strength could have been used more for the ballet-inspired movement in the Arabian dance, which he proved capable of earlier in the lifts in the snow pas de deux with CPA’s company member Katherine Patterson. Patterson nailed the back arcs and fluttering arm movement that are signature of the Snow Queen and also appeared confident in the assisted turns and off-centered partnering poses with Aguirre.

Special guest Michael Stone did a nice job of guiding us through the party scene at the beginning with his younger, hipper interpretation of Herr Drosselmeyer. His exuberant pantomiming and quick walking steps kept the other performers, especially the adults, on their toes during their dance sequence. The children did well at following directions and drawing the audience’s attention to different parts of the stage. I would have liked to see the youngsters performing more rudimentary ballet travelling steps to get them from place to place instead of the shuffling runs they were doing. Their posture and turn out prove they are capable of more.

Andrea Ghisoli did a commendable job as Clara. She was strong and clear with her gestures and soft shoe work, but needs to continuing working on her feet so that they are pointed at all times even when she is pretending to sleep on the couch. Laila Aranha, Angela Fan, Selim Kim and Sara Ann Posey displayed beautiful epaulement during their petit allegro section in the party scene, but should also continue to work on strengthening and lengthening their legs moving forward.

Both Annika Haynes and Zander Magolnick excited the crowd with sharp hand and leg placements and clean turns as the ballerina and soldier doll while company member Bianca Burton brought a fresh perspective to the battle scene with her Rat Queen characterization. Her swishing hips and sassy tutu were a welcomed addition to the otherwise standard choreography, which featured militant formations and syncopated foot work and a short sword fight between Burton and The Nutcracker played by Brian Tseng.

The battle scene smoothly transitioned into the kingdom of snow where members of CPA’s senior company captivated the audience with their spritely pointe work, dynamite musicality and sparkling performance quality. The choreography really highlighted the dancers’ athleticism with its various jumping passes across the stage and complicated petit allegro jumps in center. The peak of the dance came when the dancers entered holding fans with large pom-pom balls on the end, which they flipped back and forth in time to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s well-known score as bubble snow started to fall.

The snow scene set the bar for the second half of the show, which did encompass more challenging technique and a wider range of dance styles, including contemporary, jazz, acrobatics and folk dance.  After Clara and her prince take their seats in the kingdom of sweets, groups from around the world, including Russia, China, Spain and Asia took turns entertaining the couple with a cultural dance.

In the Spanish variation Rachela Distefano, Mika Eppstein, Elisabeth Housley, Cady Johnson, Avery Sifferman and Tori Tseng were fun and playful toward to the audience with their foot flicks, rolling shoulders and saucy skirt swishes. This playfulness was carried through to the Chinese variation where the dancers created some lovely living pictures such as the rotating flower using colorful oversized hand fans. Magolnick returned in the Russian group dance where he once again wowed us with his stamina with his repeated toe touches and triple turns while guest artist Jared Fletcher kept us laughing with his over-the-top gestures as Mother Ginger.

Rachel Weingarden had a little trouble finding her center during her open solo as the Dewdrop Fairy, but quickly found her balance and earned a round of applause for her breathy release after a series of fast chaines into an arabesque hold.

I appreciated the cohesiveness of the upper body lines of the roses (Housley, Lowe and Patterson) as well as their turnout when executing the adagio movement in the Waltz of the Flowers. The rest of the senior company captured the essence of the waltz with traveling triplet steps and swirling formation changes that ended in a dynamic group picture. In some places the dancers’ pointe work did not match the energy radiating from their arms, but that is something that can be corrected in the studio.

As mentioned earlier, Peck and Angle closed the show with their magnetic performance in the grand pas de deux, which will be one of the reasons I put CPA’s Nutcracker on my calendar for next year. In addition, the show’s finely-tuned setup from lighting and set changes to well-rehearsed children sections makes it a great bet for any family’s annual holiday dance tradition.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.



Review: Chamberlain Performing Arts’ Nutcracker

Chamberlain Performing Arts delivers strong technique and spectacular guest artists at the company’s 31st Nutcracker production this weekend.

Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle in Chamberlain’s Nutcracker. Photo Ryan Williams

Richardson — Oh, the weather outside was definitely frightful last Friday evening, but the mood inside the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts was festive as audiences eagerly took their seats for the Chamberlain Performing Arts’ (CPA) 31st showing of The Nutcracker. What sets this company’s Nutcracker apart from other productions in the area is Artistic Director Kathy Chamberlain and her team’s minimalist, yet effective approach to the stage design and movement choices, thus turning the typically cumbersome party scene into an exciting dance narrative filled with nonstop action and clean choreography.

The simple set design in the party scene, which included a handful of gifts, a large grandfather clock, a couch and a chair enabled the audience to focus more on the children and adult dances as well as the subplots taking place around the room. Choreographers Chamberlain, Richard Condon, Lynne Short and Catherine Turocy combined rudimentary ballet steps i.e. chasses, balances, relieve plie and bourrees with various regimented formation changes and even some boy/girl partnering walks in the children’s dances, creating an effect that was both clean and captivating. By intermingling the adults and children into one waltz section, the choreographers successfully kept the energy and storyline moving at a chipper pace.

Katherine Patterson (Clara) perfectly captured a child’s innocence and wonder when it comes to Christmas with her endless energy and shining stage presence. And while Patterson had a tendency to cut her movements short, when she did complete her line in an arabesque hold or sous-sus in fifth, it rivaled the lines of the older company members. With more time and training she will be a force to be reckoned with in coming years. Clara’s friends (Madison Cox, Emily DeMotte, Annika Haynes and Mary Rose Vining) displayed beautiful musicality and body control in their petit adagio section, which featured alternating leg extensions and arm placements and deliberatepique steps, all the while holding baby dolls. Guest artist Joshua Coleman really played to the younger audience members in his role as Herr Drosselmeyer with his over-the-top facial expressions and well-executed magical illusions, which included an impressive disappearing act.

CPA Senior Company Member Bethany Greenho did a commendable job as the Snow Queen. Even her sometimes stiff back arches and locked hip joints in her battements couldn’t take away from her swan-like arms and nimble pointe work nor the way she fearlessly went for the pas de deux’s momentous lifts.  Dallas native Travis Morrison, who performed with the Colorado Ballet from 2006 to 2012, inspired Greenho’s confidence with his unwavering strength and razor-sharp focus during the lifts and tricky counterbalance body positions spread throughout the dance. The snowflake dance lacked some of the elasticity demanded by Tchaikovsky’s score, which falls more on the choreographer’s shoulders than the dancers as the movement in the section catered toward more gliding steps and sustained body positions rather than constant spritely jumps and steps. The hand-held fan-like props with tiny snowballs attached at the ends drew attention to the dancers’ strong body lines and made for a memorable ending to the first half of the show.

The second half in which Clara and her Prince entered the land of sweets gave the whole company the opportunity to show off their artistic growth and technical versatility and also featured some amazing performances by special guests, including Harry Feril (Bruce Wood Dance Project) in the Arabian section and Tiler Peck (New York City Ballet) and Tyler Angle (New York City Ballet) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Peck and Angle’s chemistry was undeniable as they executed the complex reverse promenades into a ponche arabesque and the multiple over-the-head lifts including the dynamic fish bowl dip at the end with expressive abandonment. Their luminous auras and technical finesse portrayed at the end of each move, especially after the lightening-quick seven assisted pirouettes into a sustained back arch, is not something that can be taught. Their magnetism as a couple didn’t fade in their solo sections, which featured impressive jumps and controlled landings by Angle and bold lines and unwavering confidence from Tiler in the infamous diagonal chaine, pique turn combination in time to the changing rhythm of the music.

Lisa Hess Jones’ clever choreography in the second half played to each group’s specific skill level from the synchronized walking patterns of the itty bitty angels and the simple soft shoe work of the intermediate bakers and bon bon’s to the more technically advanced pointe work of the marzipans and the Waltz of the Flowers. The end result was one of the most well-rehearsed and lively second acts of the Nutcracker I have had the pleasure to see this season.

Senior dancer Luke Yee wowed audiences with multiple toes touches in the Chinese dance as well as in the Russian dance where he performed alongside Southern Methodist University dance major Alex Druzbanski. Henry Feril showed off his modern background with his hinged-back body layouts and swooping arm movements before assisting Katherine Lambert in a number of shoulder lifts and body dips in the Arabian section. Greenho, Breanna Mitchell, Raquel Dominguez, Aidan Leslie and Serena Press enthralled viewers with their beautiful lyricism and solid pointe work while playing their flutes in the marzipan dance. The whole senior company returned for the Waltz of the Flowers in which they effortlessly captured the nuances in the music with their constant weight shifts on pointe and dynamic crisscrossing jumping sequences. Definitely, a Nutcracker worth seeing again next season!

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.


American Classics

Stars of American Ballet dazzle in famed works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins at the Eisemann Center.

Stars of American Ballet Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck. Photo: Erin Baiano
Stars of American Ballet Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck. Photo: Erin Baiano

Richardson — Those who say ballet is a dying art form would have had to bite their tongue Tuesday night as the Stars of American Ballet performed to a packed house at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts in Richardson. Ballet celebs Daniel Ulbricht, Sascha Radetsky, Robert Fairchild, Jared Angle, Lauren Lovette, Stella Abrera, Rebecca Krohn and Tiler Peck took the stage to loud applause, performing in some of ballet’s most beloved works, including George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes Pas de Deux and Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free.

The program opened with Balanchine’s saucy Rubies Pas de Deux (excerpted from Jewels) to music by Igor Stravinsky. Balanchine preferred his ballerinas long and slender, but he made an exception with the female lead role in this piece, performed by Lovette. Lovette’s beautiful curves only enhanced the sultry hip twists and shoulder rolls the piece demanded. Her point work was also clean and fouette turns flawless. Ulbricht oozed confidence, but was also a very giving partner.

The second Balanchine piece, Stars and Stripes, was a big crowd pleaser. This ode to America was a nonstop movement marathon that tested both Peck and Fairchild’s stamina. Fairchild commanded our attention with his gravity defying toe touches, double tour en l’airs and quadruple pirouettes. Peck was equally captivating with her rapid chaine turns and playful personality. John Philip Sousa’s patriotic composition added to the uplifting tone of the piece.

Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading Pas de Deux featured classical lines, clean technique and beautiful partnering between Abrera and Radetsky. Abrera was the epitome of grace with her willowy frame and supple feet. Radetsky was everything you expect in a male lead: strong, supportive and sensual. Then, in Servy Gallardo’s Piazzolla Tango, Ulbricht’s performance was an explosion of athleticism and artistry. It is extremely difficult to execute multiple pirouettes into a front forward roll into a slow slinky walk, but Ulbricht did it with ease.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Liturgy showed just how much ballet has evolved over the last

Daniel Ulbricht and Lauren Lovette in George Balanchine's Rubies. Photo: Christopher Duggan
Daniel Ulbricht and Lauren Lovette in George Balanchine’s Rubies. Photo: Christopher Duggan

couple of decades. Gone are the tutus and men’s white tights. Gone is the featured female role. In Liturgy Krohn and Angle were equally matched in terms of strength and control. They had to be in order to pull off some of the contortion movements and counter-balance shapes featured in the piece. Liturgy begins with Krohn in the foreground and Angle a couple of steps behind performing a series of hand gestures and upper body rotations to the staccato sounds of composer Arvo Part. As the music changes to a smoother melody the dancers come together in a number of edgy and unexpected partnering skills. One minute Krohn and Angle are locked in an embrace and the next Krohn’s head is inches from the ground in a reverse ponche arabesque.

The second half of the show was dedicated to Robbins’ Fancy Free, with music by Leonard Bernstein. This theatrical ballet follows three sailors on shore leave in New York City and was the inspiration for the movie On The Town with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Robbins’ choreography is very character-driven. Every movement down to the way the dancers lifted their eyebrows was meticulously choreographed. Fairchild depicted the bad boy, frequently swirling his hips and slapping his knees. Radetsky played the sensitive guy, with softer, more balletic movements. Ulbricht was the clown. His movements were extremely athletic and grandiose. They meet two ladies (Peck and Abrera) and take them to club where the sailors battle for their affections with three technically brilliant solos. In the end the ladies walk out and the pals are on the prowl again.

The audience was wowed by these notable professionals performing a diverse, well-thought-out repertoire that really encompassed ballet’s evolution over the last 50 years.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Q&A: Daniel Ulbricht of Stars of American Ballet

Stars of American Ballet Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck. Photo: Erin Baiano
Stars of American Ballet Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck. Photo: Erin Baiano

The director of Stars of American Ballet on the male role in ballet and the company’s upcoming performance at Richardson’s Eisemann Center.

Richardson — Very rarely do we get the opportunity to see ballet stars like Stella Abrera, Rebecca Krohn, Robert Fairchild and Sascha Radetsky on the same stage. Thanks to Daniel Ulbricht and his company, Stars of American Ballet, the Dallas dance community will get its chance to see these dynamic dancers perform on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts.

The evening’s program includes the pas de deux from George Balanchine’s Rubies and Stars & Stripes, Servy Gallardo’s Tango, Christopher Wheeldon’s Liturgy, Antony Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading and Jerome Robbins’ beloved production of Fancy Free. In addition to the performance Ulbricht and Radetsky will be conducting a series of master classes for students in the area.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Fla., Daniel Ulbricht began his dance training at the age of 11 at the Judith Lee Johnson Studio of Dance, studying with Lenny Holmes. He was invited to continue his training at the School of American Ballet in 1999 and joined the corps de ballet of the New York City Ballet in 2001. He was promoted to the rank of principal dancer in 2007. Ulbricht is also the artistic advisor to the Manhattan Youth Ballet, the associate artistic director of the New York State Summer School for the Arts in Saratoga Springs and also conducts workshops and master classes around the country.

TheaterJones asks Daniel Ulbricht about his motivation for starting Stars of American Ballet, the challenges of working with so many different personalities and how the male role in ballet has evolved over the last several decades.

TheaterJones: What motivated you to start Stars of American Ballet?

Daniel Ulbricht: I started this group about five years ago. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. Because of her treatments, she couldn’t make it up or have the energy to so, I decided to bring the show to her. I rounded up six dancers mostly from New York City Ballet and a dancer from Houston Ballet and brought the show to her. I said to myself that I would only do this once, but I fell in love with the entire process. It was truly a learning experience. The responsibilities that come with this kind of opportunity are endless but I really thrived on the challenge. So, the following year, I brought another show home to my mom and added a new city, Buffalo. Since then I have been blessed to bring shows to St. Petersburg, Fla; Buffalo, N.Y.; Pittsburgh; Santa Fe; Ulaan Baator, Mongolia; and now Dallas. In November, we go to Mobile, Ala; Jackson, Miss; and Longview, Texas.

The mission of the show is to provide education and accessibility to the art form. I have found that most people are hesitant for two reasons when it comes to ballet. Either they don’t know anything [and/or] are afraid of it or it is too expensive. So, along with the performance we also offer master classes as well as a pre-performance talks about the program. The U.S. is such a vast country, but you have to live in a big metropolitan area to have an opportunity to see these amazing dancers and timeless masterpieces. Our goal is to bring it to your front door.

How does it differ from other ballet companies?

In terms of differences, there are a few. Certainly, we aren’t bringing the same scale of what most companies can present. We can’t mount the entire production of a full-length ballet like Swan Lake with eight people. I also don’t want the programming or dancers to be exclusive to one particular company like New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre. In other words, these companies tend to only perform the repertory that is in their own collection. With Stars of American Ballet we are able to include dancers and repertory from various companies which allows us the opportunity to put together a balanced and exciting program. The idea is to continue to bring out other companies around the country as well as collaborate with other regional companies to promote or give a platform for them in their own community. Most other companies have a one mission mind for their own company. We are more concerned about educating and inspiring the next generation to appreciate the arts.

What challenges have you encountered working with so many different personalities?

Thankfully, I haven’t run into too many. I run more into scheduling issues with various dancers than personality issues. Sometimes, I will ask a dancer to suggest what they’d like to perform and another dancer may have already selected that so I have to figure out who does what role and keep the program balanced. Regarding the dancers, I spend as much time scrutinizing the dancers off stage as I do on stage. Not only are these dancers phenomenal artists, they are also the kind of people who will help me inspire students, meet with the audience, take photos, sign posters, etc.  You need great artists and people to make a lasting impression. I have been tremendously successful in that respect, but I always try to do my homework to get the best of both worlds.

How did you go about selecting the pieces we will be seeing?

Daniel Ulbricht and Lauren Lovette in George Balanchine's Rubies. Photo: Christopher Duggan
Daniel Ulbricht and Lauren Lovette in George Balanchine’s Rubies. Photo: Christopher Duggan

The program is always crucial to the show. The hard part of directing is that you are in charge of creating the audience’s experience. So, I try to think about it as a menu. Not everyone likes the same dish. You need to have something that has sweet for one, salty for another and gluten free. You get the picture. The tough thing with eight people is how to close a program. Most of the dancers will dance twice so you also get to see a different element in their dancing which is fascinating to watch. So, finding a group or ensemble piece is difficult. But after doing some homework I found Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free to close. I believe it fulfills our artistry and athleticism undertone for the show. It is very American and it is a true masterpiece that many people don’t get the opportunity to see.

What is it like to be a part of one of America’s oldest and most prestigious ballet companies?

It is truly a blessing to be a part of a company like New York City Ballet. I have been a dancer there for 13 years and it has been one of the most amazing rides I have ever been on. The repertory, the music and the talent is just so vast that I am in awe every day. Also, I have learned so much from my director, Peter Martins. He runs a great organization. He knows how to program. The benefit is that I have been able to learn a lot as a dancer there. Peter got his start in directing while still dancing, like me. So, it has been nice to have his blessing and encouragement to explore that. We have talked about it a few times. This country is so big that you need to do whatever you can to reach out to new audiences.

How has the male role in ballet evolved over the last several decades?

The male role in dance is getting a second wind now. The first wave came with the likes of Edward Villella, Peter Martins and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Not to say that generation has dwindled, but I feel this crop now wants to really push the dance world forward. I think this generation has to fight harder to show the artistry and athleticism of dance though. I think every genre in art has someone who can champion their art form. I feel that there is a team now who is trying to do that. That is what I am aiming to do. For today though, my goal is to show how tough dance is. That dance can really compete with football, baseball, etc. Strength, balance, control, and speed all of those fields share, but musicality and artistry, that is what makes the dance world tough. Who said you have to smile and play football to music?

How do the male roles in works by newer choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon differ from those of their predecessors such as Balanchine?

Great question. I feel the male role is sort of the same in the partnering sense. Christopher is taking the shapes further, pushing the boundaries where Balanchine may have been a little more subtle. The beauty of Balanchine’s work is that you just have to dance them. You don’t have to sell what he has crafted so beautifully. That is the mastery of course. But Wheeldon has really done wonders in the fact that he takes his audience somewhere when you watch his work. That is what any choreographer would want to do. We are lucky to have his work on the bill as well as the Robbins and Balanchine masterpieces.

What advice do you have for dancers looking to pursue a career in ballet?

If you want to pursue it, go all the way. This profession is truly about dedication and commitment. Perfection is not going to happen, but you can always better yourself. Drive and push forward. No one ever made progress by keeping their car in neutral. Work with other dancers and take master classes. They open your eyes and ears. There is so much to learn and I am still learning after all the years I have put in. Dance is a progression, so don’t give up on the hard days. The pro will keep going!

What are your hopes for the company’s future?

My future ambitions for the group are to tour around the country and abroad to bring high caliber dance and programs to places that can’t afford to go to New York or other big cities. Everyone should be able to experience dance at least once in their life and not just The Nutcracker. The education and outreach is really about creating that opportunity for any one at any age to appreciate the arts. Ballet can do it and Stars of American Ballet will bring it to you.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.