The ballet is staged and choreographed by Rodney Gustafson and Gary McKenzie, with spectacular sets designed and built in Moscow, grand new costumes designed by A. Christina Giannini and Anaya Cullen, and starring Jack Stewart, Ryan Camou, Season Winquest and a host of the talented student dancers from Gustafson’s school.
The State Street Ballet had a very good run with its Nutcracker set in 1930s Hollywood — it went down especially well in this movie-besotted, industry town — but now it is into a more traditional look, very chic and opulent, and that seems to be going very well, too. The fact of the matter is, unlike most other things in America, where the newest is the best, novelty is not at a premium in productions of The Nutcracker, and nor is realism.
Nothing is more fragile than the web of perfect fantasy that holds a good Nutcracker together. One short blast of the cold, hard facts of life and the whole enterprise collapses into something weird and scary. The family scenes that open the ballet must be as ideal and happy as the war with the Mouse King is bizarre and fantastic. It is not reality versus fantasy; it is one fantasy serving as a springboard, or context, for another. Besides, people don’t go to a Nutcracker for a new experience; they go to witness, as close as possible, their first Nutcracker.
This, regardless of the era in which it has set the story, the State Street Ballet has always managed to do as well as it can be done. Given the high quality of the State Street dancers, and the proven magic of Tchaikovsky’s music, success and happiness are pretty much guaranteed.
Igor Stravinsky said of Tchaikovsky, “He was the most Russian of us all.” He was also the most romantic, I think, if we accept Geoffrey Scott’s definition of it: “Romanticism may be said to consist in a high development of poetic sensibility towards the remote, as such. It idealises the distant, both of time and place; it identifies beauty with strangeness. … It is most often retrospective, turning away from the present, however valuable, as being familiar. It is always idealistic, casting on the screen of an imaginary past the projection of its unfulfilled desires.”
That just about covers every note Tchaikovsky composed.
Tickets to The Nutcracker range from $28 to $53, with children age 12 or younger admitted for $18. There are also discounts available for students and seniors. Tickets are available through the Granada box office at 1214 State St. or 805.899.2222, or click here to order online.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.