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‘Nutcracker’ brings holiday touch to Shubert stage

Lifestyle2018-12-07

In the holiday season, Lisa Sanborn is an artist painting in choreography, mixing traditional ballet colors with newer ones that “bring something kind of new and exciting and fun” to New Haven Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Shubert Theater Dec. 15-16.Artistic director Sanborn’s full-length production of the ballet charms with its mix of professional dancers and New Haven Ballet students from kindergarten to late teens. For repeat customers, it varies a bit from year to year, as Sanborn is always trying to improve it.“When I’m looking at the dancers who are going to be performing that role, I want to tailor that role to highlight what that dancer is capable of conveying,” Sanborn said. “So even though the music remains consistent, the choreography and, to some extent, the nuance of the story changes.”Sanborn, a former professional dancer herself who performed in “The Nutcracker” for New Haven Ballet, said the immediacy of a live performance is special and it can make lifetime memories. Her job, she says, is to give the dancers their best chance to make a connection with audience members.“That (connection) is very dependent on each individual performer,” Sanborn said, “how they’re able to do that and how we’re able to work with them to make that happen because, for me, as a dancer as well as performer, that’s the whole magic of ‘The Nutcracker.’”The connection depends on artistry, yes, but also arises from the reality of a live show.Sanborn said “you’re sharing this experience with the people that are sitting right next to you. You can hear their reaction; you can see everything the dancer is doing on stage. ... When I sit in the audience, I feel completely transfixed. I feel as if I’m seeing something that is a once-in-a-lifetime performance. And it is, because it’s live and anything can happen.”Part of the latest incarnation of the holiday classic at the Shubert will be some new handmade costumes (including “gorgeous” folk dresses made in Russia that took months to arrive, said Sanborn) and a new backdrop for act II’s Kingdom of Sweets. Community walk-ons will occur again, including popular News 8 TV personality Joceyln Maminta.New Haven Ballet has upped its community outreach this fall, after revising its mission statement, performing at a local furniture story and the Neighborhood Music School leading up to its big shows. Sanborn said the idea is to “hopefully introduce the wonder of classical ballet to people who might not have access to it.”The “Nutcracker” classic story is about young Clara’s dream world brought to life — from the enchanting party where she meets the charming nephew of her Uncle Drosselmeyer and is enthralled by dancing dolls to the battle between the Mouse King and brave Nutcracker Prince.Lead by tiny reindeer (NHB’s cutest and youngest performers), Clara and the Nutcracker Prince travel through the Land of Snow and journey to the enchanting Kingdom of Sweets, where they are entertained by various dancers — including the mysterious Arabian Coffee and comical Mother Ginger.Not that those names are entirely evident; this is ballet, of course, so there’s little verbal exposition or supertitles. But Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s mostly familiar music (prerecorded here) never fails to fuel the toe-touching pointe work, leaps and lifts — as well as audience recognition.“You know when you walk up and down the streets of New Haven and you’re going to shopping and you hear that ‘Nutcracker’ music play?” asks Sanborn. “And right away it brings to mind something ... maybe it brings to mind going to the performance as a child or taking your kids or grandkids. It absolutely triggers that feeling of what the holidays are about — what is holiday spirit about, what is family about.”Leading the cast again this year will be professional dancers Simone Messmer and Stephen Hanna as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.(THE HOUR)

In the holiday season, Lisa Sanborn is an artist painting in choreography, mixing traditional ballet colors with newer ones that “bring something kind of new and exciting and fun” to New Haven Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Shubert Theater Dec. 15-16.

Artistic director Sanborn’s full-length production of the ballet charms with its mix of professional dancers and New Haven Ballet students from kindergarten to late teens. For repeat customers, it varies a bit from year to year, as Sanborn is always trying to improve it.

“When I’m looking at the dancers who are going to be performing that role, I want to tailor that role to highlight what that dancer is capable of conveying,” Sanborn said. “So even though the music remains consistent, the choreography and, to some extent, the nuance of the story changes.”

Sanborn, a former professional dancer herself who performed in “The Nutcracker” for New Haven Ballet, said the immediacy of a live performance is special and it can make lifetime memories. Her job, she says, is to give the dancers their best chance to make a connection with audience members.

“That (connection) is very dependent on each individual performer,” Sanborn said, “how they’re able to do that and how we’re able to work with them to make that happen because, for me, as a dancer as well as performer, that’s the whole magic of ‘The Nutcracker.’”

The connection depends on artistry, yes, but also arises from the reality of a live show.

Sanborn said “you’re sharing this experience with the people that are sitting right next to you. You can hear their reaction; you can see everything the dancer is doing on stage. ... When I sit in the audience, I feel completely transfixed. I feel as if I’m seeing something that is a once-in-a-lifetime performance. And it is, because it’s live and anything can happen.”

Part of the latest incarnation of the holiday classic at the Shubert will be some new handmade costumes (including “gorgeous” folk dresses made in Russia that took months to arrive, said Sanborn) and a new backdrop for act II’s Kingdom of Sweets. Community walk-ons will occur again, including popular News 8 TV personality Joceyln Maminta.

New Haven Ballet has upped its community outreach this fall, after revising its mission statement, performing at a local furniture story and the Neighborhood Music School leading up to its big shows. Sanborn said the idea is to “hopefully introduce the wonder of classical ballet to people who might not have access to it.”

The “Nutcracker” classic story is about young Clara’s dream world brought to life — from the enchanting party where she meets the charming nephew of her Uncle Drosselmeyer and is enthralled by dancing dolls to the battle between the Mouse King and brave Nutcracker Prince.

Lead by tiny reindeer (NHB’s cutest and youngest performers), Clara and the Nutcracker Prince travel through the Land of Snow and journey to the enchanting Kingdom of Sweets, where they are entertained by various dancers — including the mysterious Arabian Coffee and comical Mother Ginger.

Not that those names are entirely evident; this is ballet, of course, so there’s little verbal exposition or supertitles. But Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s mostly familiar music (prerecorded here) never fails to fuel the toe-touching pointe work, leaps and lifts — as well as audience recognition.

“You know when you walk up and down the streets of New Haven and you’re going to shopping and you hear that ‘Nutcracker’ music play?” asks Sanborn. “And right away it brings to mind something ... maybe it brings to mind going to the performance as a child or taking your kids or grandkids. It absolutely triggers that feeling of what the holidays are about — what is holiday spirit about, what is family about.”

Leading the cast again this year will be professional dancers Simone Messmer and Stephen Hanna as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.

(THE HOUR)

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