“Nutcracker and the Mouse King” director Stephen Wynne chats with dancers prior to Monday’s warm-up and rehearsal at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Dancers warm up prior to Monday’s rehearsal at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
It’s one of those things people like to do at this time of the year. A family tradition for many, but often missed for a few years when the busy Christmas season sneaks by and picked up again when a young relative or friend gets involved as a dancer or a spectator.
Last year, Dance Arts Los Alamos (DALA) was unable to present the beloved Nutcracker ballet because Duane Smith Auditorium was under construction, but this year, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” directed by Stephen Wynne is ready to roll.
The first performance will be Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Duane Smith Auditorium, followed by matinee performances on both Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
In E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic story written in 1816, the young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanovad adapted the story into the ballet The Nutcracker.
Director Wynne says the DALA production is based on the original story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King which is really is “Klara-centric”.
“Everything is about Klara. Her name is actually Marie in the German translation. It’s all about what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling, what’s happening to her. Everyone’s creative translation is probably like that but I try to make it about what’s the concept, what’s trying to be told by her. So if you read Hoffmann’s tale, you will see that it’s really a coming of age story for Klara,” he said.
Wynne said it’s also about overcoming her fear, that she’s in a position where all of a sudden she gets this Nutcracker and she unexpectedly develops this affection for the Nutcracker.
“So for Clara, that’s the first time in her life that she has affection for someone outside of her family. This is the first step of her coming of age,” he said. “What I’m doing here is making sure that in my production that when this battle ensues between good and bad, between the Rat King and the Nutcracker, it has to be taken seriously. It’s not a funny thing. It’s not like a Walt Disney sort of comic throwing a piece of cheese at you or something because that’s the essence of Klara’s fear and nobody takes their fear lightly.”
Wynne said when you’re afraid, you’re afraid and Klara’s not a cartoon figure falling off a cliff and dusting herself off.
“She’s a real person so she has to deal with this fear. So the battle is sort of the manifestation of her, coming of age, and her developing a passion for a young man, the Nutcracker. In my version, I try to make that as real as possible so that the audience has a little bit of ‘edge of their seat’ experience so that they can celebrate with her that she’s overcome this experience, that she’s come to a different place in her life, that it’s tangible for everyone to see,” he said.
The dancers – most of them from middle school up understand – what he’s talking about, Wynne said.
“The kids are bright and they grow up fast and I think that they understand what this is. They don’t have a lot of experience in it because they’re so young, but they grasp the idea that this is a coming of age, a real battle. Some of our kids are affected more than others but everybody battles with things in their lives so I think all of them understand the struggle. From first grade on, I think they really comprehend what struggle is. So from that perspective, it’s not a foreign concept,” he said.
Wynne said after the battle in the ballet, there’s the Waltz of the Snowflakes and then Klara and the younger Nutcracker prince who is more her age takes her through the snowstorm and that’s the end of Act One. He said in Act Two the walk continues into this “other-worldly” experience and that leads into the Candyland which is the expression of being on the other side, having overcome the difficulties.
“You’ve reached a certain understanding. You have a whole new world in front of you. In the Candy Land, you have all these people from foreign countries which represent a new vista that’s opening up for her. That’s where she sees the rewards of her personal battle, of her overcoming of her coming of age where she now can just totally be a kid again and enjoy the fruit of her labor of overcoming,” Wynne said. “Everybody likes an overcomer. It’s always a great story. A lot of choreographers get caught in the celebration and Christmas but if you just go a little deeper you can find this amazing story of this young lady who is being challenged.”
Wynne said everyone is well-rehearsed and that they are now working on the technical side – the lights and designs – prior to Thursday’s dress rehearsal.
If the excitement level of the dancers and their parents is anything to go by, this weekend’s production of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, the most danced ballet in the world, will not disappoint.
In other DALA news, Santa is making himself available for photos from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Duane Smith Auditorium lobby prior to the matinee performances. The cost is $5 per photo. Photos will be taken with a digital camera and emailed to participants. Funds raised from the photo shoot will go toward DALA students’ expenses for the Youth Grand Prix competition Feb. 6-10 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Tickets for the ballet are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and children. Children aged three and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at the door, CB Fox and Bliss Gift Emporium.
Dancers focus on their steps Monday at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
With only two more rehearsals before Thursday’s dress rehearsal, dancers warm up Monday at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Nutcracker director Stephen Wynne watches as dancers rehearse Act Two Monday evening. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
A scene from Monday evening’s rehearsal of Act Two. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Scene from Monday evening’s Nutcracker rehearsal at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Scene from Nutcracker rehearsal at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Nutcracker director Stephen Wynne watches part of Monday evening’s Nutcracker rehearsal at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com