Other cities have developed their own variations on The Nutcracker. What does Chicago’s do best? The brilliant part is to see something that speaks directly to the Chicago audience. The World’s Fair paired with The Nutcracker makes complete sense with its props, magical aspects and transformations.
I also like how this performance makes a full circle of the story. Everyone wants a great ending and wants to see the underdog achieve happiness, and we’ve got that. Having the story be proper to Chicago makes it even better.
What does this new version require of you as a performer? When you are the lead dancer, every person on stage is waiting for you to hit the exact spot, unlock the curtain a certain way, be in the lights at a certain point. The Great Impresario is a key character that moves the story forward, and dancing [the role] is also very challenging from a technical aspect. Christopher did not give space for mistakes. There are a lot of technical executions, and if they do not go well, the curtain must go down.
With stakes so high, how do you ensure that those technical executions go well?
The Great Impresario has to reveal the nutcracker doll in a particular way for the audience to see it. So I have a routine before every show. First I check the nutcracker. The scarf that covers it is a silky, slippery fabric. I have to wrap and fold the cloth just right so when I grab it onstage [pantomimes], the fabric pulls clear. I have four seconds to reveal the nutcracker. They’re fast movements, all done while dancing, and the dancer has to get it right every time.
How should audiences approach the new production to fully enjoy it? Come to the performance with an open mind, because this is a different story. It is related to the original ballet, but it’s not the same. If you hold on to the old version of The Nutcracker, you won’t experience the new story. And if you have a set mind prior to the show, expecting something, you might be disappointed. You need to come with an open mind to see something new—a Chicago Nutcracker with a different, fresh look.
An Arabian dance offers a hypnotizing break in a show that packs its stage with dancers performing to intense musical scores.