Now in its 33rdapprox The Manhattan-based non-profit ballet company Dances Patrelle (dP) celebrates its 25th yearthat Founding anniversary of Francis Patrelle’s artistic director and choreographer The Yorkville Nutcracker with a four-performance weekend at Hunter College. The annual family-friendly vacation tradition was revisited and reset in NYC in 1895 by Patrelle, whose work includes over 50 original ballets choreographed in a variety of styles for his eponymous company.
The revised staging of the 19ththatCentury takes the audience on a magical tour of New York in two acts, stopping at some of its iconic landmarks – Gracie Mansion, the Lake in Central Park, and the Grand Conservatory of the Bronx Botanical Gardens – around the iconic. to enjoy characters from the Russian classic from 1892, along with real-life characters from New York’s past, a large gathering of dignitaries from around the world, and people from different countries and a variety of ethnicities, representative of our melting pot culture, dancing to Tchaikovskies beloved score. It’s a unique combination of narrative ballet with a lesson in NYC history, including such well-known figures as Mayor William L. Strong and his family, Theodore Roosevelt (then President of the Board of Police Commissioners) and the Babcocks (owners of Gracie Mansion before it was sold to the city, later the mayor’s official residence), as explained in the detailed program notes by Steven Burns and Robert Dorf.
In keeping with Patrelle’s mission to promote and celebrate dramatic ballet, to inspire and encourage budding dancers, and to make the art accessible to all, the production includes a large cast of young children and students from eleven participating ballet schools who want to learn and received the invaluable opportunity to be on stage with experienced members of the troupe and special guest artists.
This year’s standout list of solo dancers includes Abi Stafford (who recently retired after 21 years with the New York City Ballet) as Sugar Plum Fairy, Tyler Angle as her Cavalier (published courtesy of NYCB), freelance artist Maximilien Baud as Snow King and Graceanne Pierce as the Snow Queen and Christopher Charles McDaniel as the Snow Prince (courtesy of the Dance Theater of Harlem). Her accomplished skills, grace, strength and agility in great solos and seemingly weightless pas-de-deux not only amazed the audience, but certainly provided the perfect role models for their aspiring cast colleagues. Other highlights included Shannon Maynor, who performed the Arabian Divertissement with exquisitely elegant extensions, and the easy and beautiful dance of the flowers by the Corps de Ballet with the delightful semi-soloists Tanja Whited and Miranda Berlin.
The performance is enhanced by painted scrims and backdrops (by resident set designer Gillian Bradshaw-Smith) and elaborate costumes (by resident costume designer Rita B. Watson) evoking the era, style, and locations of Olde New York, and lighting that captures the passage of hours, both outside and inside, on Christmas Eve (by resident lighting designer David Grill). At the matinee I attended there was a technical glitch in the prerecorded music of the sound system which resulted in a brief delay, but the intrepid artists completed the scene and returned to the stage when fixed. It was another important lesson for the young ballet students – the show has to go on, and it did.
Running time: Approximately one hour and 50 minutes, including a break.
The Yorkville Nutcracker plays at Dances Patrelle until Sunday, December 12, 2021, performing at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, East 68that Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, NYC. For tickets (priced at $ 69, with discounts for large families, groups, students, and seniors), visit the box office, call (212) 772-4448, or go on-line. All spectators must present a vaccination card with photo identification before entering the venue and wear a mask when entering the building and during the entire time inside.