PUB takes a unique approach toward tackling its very first "Nutcracker." Out of sheer practicality, they have chosen to cover the plot of the first act with a brief voiceover. They then dive headfirst into the second half of the play, known as the Kingdom of Sweets. Thus, the less ballet-inclined viewer hesitant to commit to a full evening of classical ballet need not shy away from this production. The piece runs just more than half an hour, the perfect burst of holiday cheer to brighten up what could otherwise be a rather dreary weeknight of cramming.
The evening opens as a quartet of Spanish dancers hits the stage, ladies bearing sexy black character heels. For the ballet connoisseur, this variation, along with the Arabian variation that follows, is the choreography of Mary Day, former artistic director of the Washington Ballet. The Chinese variation is the Choo San Goh rendition, while all other featured variations represent a general Kirov/Russian style.
The energy of the piece reaches its climax as dancers Grayden Holubar '13 and AJ Brannum '13 perform a Russian duet. PUB is no longer solely a tribe of sugarplum fairies; in its second year of existence, the group has found some princes, too. Holubar and Brannum display remarkable stamina and presence throughout the variation, finishing with a series of alternating Italian changements and grand sautes in seconde ("toe-touches").
The evening ends with the Sugar Plum Fairy variation. Mariana Olaizola '13 perfectly embodies this idyllic goddess, displaying remarkable grace, contro and artistry. It is difficult to watch Olaizola dance without staring with awe at her banana-shaped feet. Her impeccable command of the movement as she catches herself for moments of balance, without even the slightest inkling of strain in her face, truly caries the variation.
Overall, PUB presents an impressive work given its surroundings. The stage in Whitman College's Class of 1970 Theater is certainly not conducive to the ballet's explosive movement, and the wooden floors can be a pointe shoe's worst nightmare. But these ladies and gents carry it off, reminding us of the incredible talent that exists in every corner of campus. Ballet illiterates and lovers alike should stop by the Class of 1970 Theater at 8 p.m. this Monday and Wednesday, even if only to enjoy the hot chocolate, cookies, candy canes and other seasonal treats offered after each performance. That's right - free food!
PROS: Expert dancing (especially the male dancers) in a classic Christmas show
CONS: Whitman Theater is an awkward space for a ballet
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