Choreographer and producer Rodney Gustafson created the traditional show, featuring professional ballet company members and students of the Gustafson School of Dance. This traditional Nutcracker replaced Gustafson’s presentation of the last few seasons, in which The Nutcracker took place in a Hollywood movie studio circa the 1930s.
In this re-creation, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s beloved score was recorded, and the dancers seem to have been rehearsed to within an inch of their lives. The opulent costumes and sets filled the Granada stage with familiar visions of that mythic Russian past.
Co-choreographer Gary McKenzie danced the pivotal role of Drosselmeyer, the instigator of the fanciful story. Drosselmeyer brings the funny-but-beautiful Nutcracker to young Clara, and the fanciful episodes that follow are conjured by the toy to please the girl.
The Nutcracker originated as a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, a 19th-century German poet and storyteller whose imagination apparently knew no bounds.
There was an old grandmother with her cane, tottering about and then springing into agile leaps. She was danced by Steven Jasso. The longtime character interpreter Sergei Domrachev unleashed his inner Old Lady as the classic character Mother Ginger. Domrachev is one of the most notable dancers to grace Santa Barbara’s stages.
Before the dance gave way completely to Tchaikovsky’s romantic fancies, there was plenty of stage business carried on by such characters as rats, mice, toy soldiers and very small children. Sunday’s audience was filled with small children, and they were appropriately awed at the goings-on.
The snow pas de deux was performed by Jack Stewart and Jennifer Phillips, closing the ballet’s first half with the kind of stage magic that snow always seems to provide. In the second half, there were Chinese, Arabian and Russian pairs, followed by the well-loved Waltz of the flowers.
The afternoon ended with the classic duet between the Sugar Plum Fairy, performed by Season Winquest, and her dashing partner, the estimable Ryan Camou.
Costume design was by A. Christina Giannini and Anaya Cullen, the production and lighting design was by Mark Somerfield, and the set design was by Daniel Nyiri and Yuriy Samodurov.