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Drama and Dance - Jose Mateo Nutcracker - Splendiferous for All

Almost two centuries ago (1816), E.T.A. Hoffmann published his story, "Nutcracker and Mouse King." Much later (1892), it served as the inspiration for Peter Tchaikovsky's magnificent score for the ballet, "The Nutcracker."

José Mateo Ballet Theater's (JMBT) version of The Nutcracker is characterized by what the dance group calls "simplicity and dynamism."  Their interpretation of this classic holiday piece (now 26 years for JMBT) is magical, sensual and satisfying, providing a focus both on drama – the story – and the dance that brings it to life. In Dorchester's Strand Theatre Dec 20-22, 2013.

Get Ready to be Transported

Before the ballet begins, do yourself a favor and read "The Nutcracker story" included in the program booklet to learn more about the relationships among the key players including Clara, the magician, the rat King, the mice, the soldiers and the many dancers from the Kingdom of the Sweets. 

From the opening moments of the ballet, Dr. Drosselmeyer's magic, his come-to-life dolls and my fear for Clara at the presence of so many mice, pulled me onto stage, and I became part of the ongoing story. When Clara slays the Rat King, an act so simply and quickly committed, I stood on stage (sat in my seat) in awe.  Sweet Clara, the young protagonist, had committed an act of defiance and preservation.  "Who slew the Rat King?" None of the people sitting close to me could answer this question.  No one had noticed Clara's bravery. Stay alert or you could easily miss Clara saving her prince.  
Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier
What brings so many families to see The Nutcracker, season after season, is its ability to draw all ages vicariously onto the stage.  Indeed, from the preschooler through teen years, young dancers are essential to this production.  The youngest dancers appear to be the little boys attending the party, some of whom "trip dance" on stage, looking like they are doing their best to pretend to dance and drawing us into wanting to hug them.  ("You are soooo cute!")

After the December 12, 2013 production in Cambridge, one mom talked about her daughter's history with The Nutcracker and Jose Mateo.  Daughter started out as a little mouse then became a child of Mother Ginger hidden in her skirt and finally graduated into her current role as one of the niftiest looking characters on stage, a soldier.  In the Boston area we can look back on our years in grade school and middle school but some of us also get to look back on our growth through dance companies such as José Mateo.

Doing the Honors

Predictably, the audience claps for its favorite divertissements in the Kingdom of the Sweets, especially the Russian "trepek" dance, Mother Ginger with her thousand children under her skirt and all of the dances where the music speaks to us as a permanent part of our music repertoire possibly more than the dancers.

Watch for the child angel, so beautifully dressed, who walks to front center stage, stays but moments then leaves and, later on, returns.  Who is she?  What does she represent?  Not adding action to the story, perhaps she is present to add a blessing to the dancers and to the Jose Mateo dance group. 

Two sets of dancers deserve special recognition. Unlike typical ballet where the male dancer's role is to support the leading female dancer, the Arabian Coffee dancers were so sensually entwined they were inseparable, neither one dominating, both dependent on each other fully at all times.  Watch as the male dancer moves his hands across the female dancer's body, atypical of traditional ballet.

The second noteworthy mention is for the quality of the closing dancers in the Grand Pas De Deux - the Sugarplum Fairy (Angie DeWolf) and her partner, the Cavalier (Spencer Doru Keith).   At no other point in the ballet had I noticed a pair of dancers demonstrating this level of perfection in their form. Yes, while both dancers were on stage, the Cavalier provided a supportive role for his partner, the Sugarplum Fairy, solo dances followed that arrayed the skills of both.

On the way out, I looked for someone to whom I could express my praise for the entire production but especially for the Grand Pas de Deus, someone associated with the ballet company.  A sequence of "No, not me's" eventually led to one woman who was willing to listen.  I said to her, almost breathlessly: "The two dancers at the close of the ballet gave such wonderful performances. (and on and on)"  So absorbed in talking, I barely heard her say:  "That was my daughter, Angie."  I stopped, thinking I had died and gone to heaven.  Suddenly, Angie's mom and I shared an intimacy created by the artistic capabilities of her daughter.  "Will you please tell her and her Cavalier how much I loved their dancing."  I gave her a great big hug.

The Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre performs on the Strand Theatre stage in Dorchester, Friday - Sunday, December 20-22, 2013.

Click here for ticket information.

About Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre

Founded in 1986, José Mateo Ballet Theatre is one of America's leading producers of new ballets, the area's most innovative ballet school, and the originator of Dance for World Community™, a project that builds local and global networks to expand the role of dance in our culture.  Over the past 28 years, Cuban-born Artistic Director and Founder, José Mateo has developed his unique vision using the power of dance to inspire and engage today's diverse audiences. 
Hailed by Boston magazine as "Best of Boston 2011 Dance Performance", the Company regularly presents Mateo's highly acclaimed concerts at its stunning Sanctuary Theatre in its home at Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square. The School offers an innovative model for a high-quality academy with a humanistic approach to ballet training that fosters diversity and inclusion at both its Cambridge campus and Duxbury satellite program. 

Dance for World Community™ makes dance accessible to thousands of children, families, and new audiences, and produces the annual Dance for World Community Festival, a two-day event that features performances by over 70 local dance groups, workshops, classes, and advocacy that celebrates the role of dance to create social change.  Learn more about José Mateo Ballet Theatre at www.ballettheatre.org.

Posted: December 19,2013     Nancy J Conrad

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