Amy Seiwert rehearses Sacramento Ballet. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet

'Tis the Season for New Nutcrackers

Gennadi Nedvigin is not the only early tenure director breaking out a new production of The Nutcracker this season.


Sacramento Ballet

Amy Seiwert is putting her own stamp on the holiday staple in her first season as Sacramento Ballet's artistic director. Though it is expected to be a traditional approach to the tale, it will be interesting to see how her contemporary aesthetic—and perspective as a female ballet choreographer—flavor the familiar divertissements. The Sacramento Philharmonic accompanies select performances. Dec. 14–23.

Royal New Zealand Ballet

Outside of the U.S., The Nutcracker is far less closely associated with the holidays. On Oct. 31, Royal New Zealand Ballet began presenting and touring the classic for the first time since 2010. The new production features choreography by Val Caniparoli, who was previously tapped by RNZB artistic director Patricia Barker to create a version for Grand Rapids Ballet in 2014. After a run at its home base of Wellington, the production sets out on an eight-city New Zealand tour concluding Dec. 15.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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