Xeitgeist ~ the spirit of the event
by Melinda Darlington-Bach

A Recipe for Great Success

nutcrackerWhen you combine three sure-fire ingredients, including charming dancers from the 48 year-old grand institution of the historic Marin Ballet with the iconic full length children's ballet, The Nutcracker and add in the talents of award-winning choreographer, Julia Adam, what you get is a delightful confection guaranteed to enthrall all ages.

This holiday ballet has undergone more incarnations than any other full length work in history. Originally,the ballet based on a revision by well-known French author , Alexander Dumas, Nutcracker first came to life in December, 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The prestigious San Francisco Ballet Company had the distinction of presenting the first complete Nutcracker production in 1944 in the U.S. The SFB version was beautifully choreographed by Mr. Willem Christensen, with his wife , Gisella Caccialanza dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The next person to take on the Nutcracker was the legendary George Balanchine premiering his now-famous New York City Ballet version in 1954. The Balanchine version is recognized for using more children than the others and is perceived as more nostalgic somehow.As it has also been widely broadcast on television, audiences have been given the gift of experiencing NYCB principal dancers Gelsey Kirkland as Clara and during his time with Balanchine, the uber talented Mikhail Baryshnikov, himself as her Prince.

Next on the scene was the luminary Mikhail Baryshnikov, who created his vision during his tenure as Artistic Director of The American Ballet Theatre Company in 1976. His interpretation is viewed as more melancholy than the predecessors and may be a result of his deep emotional Russian roots. The Baryshnikov Nutcracker is heavily influenced by the choreographer Vainonen's 1934 production and Baryshnikov gives him full credit for "The Snowflake Waltz."

In 1991, we start to get several quirky versions with the clever Mark Morris' The Hard Nut as the most highly popular and inventive offering. Now, we come back full circle to the venerable San Francisco Ballet, wherein 2007 the prolific choreographer and Artistic Director, Helgi Tomasson created his Nutcracker fantasy following the basic storyline of the ballet, but does move it to San Francisco in 1915.

Since 2007, Marin Ballet's Artistic Director , Cynthia Lucas, was committed to bringing a new, fresh Nutcracker to the community and entered into a wonderful collaboration with choreographer and friend, Julia Adam. Ms. Adam had an extraordinary career as a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet from 1988 to 2002. She has become a world -class choreographer , setting ballets for major companies all around the world. Both as a performing artist and as a choreographer, Ms. Adam is so exquisitely musical and highly sensitive to phrasing and structure. As she rose through the ranks of San Francisco Ballet, Ms Adam was highly sought after by all the most well-known guest choreographers and as a dancer , was cast for her stellar interpretations of dramatic and contemporary roles.

Having moved seamlessly into the world of choreography, the new Nutcracker for Marin Ballet is infused with magical and clever characters that will amuse and entertain children and adults.

Guest artist, Peter Brandenhoff, who also had a lengthy and successful career with the San Francisco Ballet, dances the role of Drosselmayer with great humor and strong, clean technique. A smart choice in casting, Mr. Brandenhoff looks like a cross between a character from a Bram Stoker novel combined with the charisma of a Johnny Depp. Over the period of the ballet, he develops a close relationship with Clara and expertly partners the Sugar Plum Fairy, who danced beautifully , after she appears out of a luscious lavender cake.

In Act 2 in a quite wonderful unexpected surprise,the main characters touch down out of the sky in a colorful hot air balloon landing in The Land of the Sweets, where Ms. Adam reveals her intention of the final creation of a huge layer cake completed with the traditional Second Act ballet variations. For example, Waltz of the Flour, Spanish Chocolate, Chinese Almonds and Russian bakers , complete with bowls and spoons and all so very delightful!

Kudos to the Marin Ballet and to Julia Adam for making this version a must-see for every age. The set designer, Miguel Romero and lighting designer, Lisa Pinkham should also both be congratulated for their part on making this production a visual treat.

Ms. Adams was quoted as saying" In creating my dances, I found my voice." In this new glittering new Nutcracker for the Marin Ballet, Julia, your voice comes through, loud and clear.

~ Marin Arts Council Magazine, December 2009