Category Archives: The Nutcracker

A Good First Look: Ballet San Jose’s New “Nutcracker”

From Karen Gabay's "The Nutcracker," performed by Ballet San Jose. Photo by Robert Shomler.

From Karen Gabay’s “The Nutcracker,” performed by Ballet San Jose. Photo by Robert Shomler (2012).

Ballet San Jose’s brand new Nutcracker opened this past Saturday in a gorgeous swirl of snow and infectious energy. Longtime Ballet SJ principal dancer Karen Gabay has choreographed a new production from a unique perspective: that of one of the only female choreographers in the world to choreograph a Nutcracker for a major ballet company. Performed to full orchestral accompaniment by Symphony Silicon Valley, her Nutcracker has given South Bay audiences a new look at the a classic holiday tale.

In her review for the San Jose Mercury News, Rita Felciano wrote:

This year Gabay…joined that still rare breed of women who choreograph major pieces for professional ballet companies. Gabay is no beginner at making dances. Still, tackling “Nutcracker” was a huge challenge — and opportunity. Supported by the Symphony Silicon Valley, under the baton of the ballet’s new musical director George Daugherty, she gave her home team and the legion of “Nutcracker” lovers, a family-friendly, fresh interpretation of the old tale — including a new twist.

Ms. Felciano went on to call parts of this new production of Nutcracker “ingenious,” praising Ballet SJ dancers for worthy performances, and later wrote that the “national dances are every ‘Nutcracker’s’ balletic highlights. Gabay gave us convincing versions with a feminist touch to some of them.”

In her review for triviana.com Arts & Entertainment, Virginia Bock wrote:

With festive sets, elegant costumes, a familiar story and Tchaikovsky’s well-known score, “The Nutcracker” ballet has been an audience favorite and a holiday tradition for decades. Ballet San Jose’s new production adds humor, complexity and some stunning new choreography that should keep audiences coming back for years to come.

Writing for CriticalDance.com, Heather Desaulniers noted:

With its brand new “Nutcracker”, Ballet San Jose continues to inject life, vision and vitality into the South Bay’s performing arts scene. Choreographed by BSJ’s own Karen Gabay, this full-length holiday extravaganza is a thoughtful and fresh interpretation of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, complete with elegant dancing and striking originality…Accompaniment by Symphony Silicon Valley was the icing on the cake.  Under the direction of conductor George Daugherty, the music was dynamic, articulate and interactive, exactly what is required of and demanded by a Tchaikovsky score.

Dr. Gary R. Lemco, in his review for “The Classical Music Guide” forums at http://www.classicalmusicguide.com, added:

Peter Tchaikovsky’s perennial Christmas favorite, The Nutcracker, hardly needs promotion, but the Ballet San Jose production, with new choreography by former prima ballerina Karen Gabay, struck a chord, both resonant to the ear and panoramic to the eye, that warrants special mention. With the Symphony Silicon Valley under the masterful leadership of conductor George Daugherty, the audience at the Friday, December 14, 2012 performance at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts recovered much of the original wonder and enchantment of both the composer and “librettist,” E.T.A. Hoffmann’s, often nightmarish parable of humanity’s liberation from its primal fears to embrace its own childhood innocence.

And Dr. Lemco also gave Ballet SJ School students a very positive mention:

Ms. Gabay’s singular effort was to engage as many young dancers as possible in the ensemble pieces, so the production glowed with Ballet SJ School Students.

Bravi! Congratulations to Karen, George, the company, Ballet SJ School students, and Symphony Silicon Valley. Every good review is well deserved!

It’s been an amazing run so far, but the show not over yet! Ballet SJ’s new Nutcracker runs through this Sunday, December 23, and there are still tickets available. Buy online or call our Box Office at (408) 288-2800 during regular business hours. Tickets can also be purchased one hour before show time at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts.

Happy holidays!

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Alex Kramer

Alex Kramer photographed by Jade Young

Alex Kramer photographed by Jade Young

Nine days ago, Ballet San Jose gave the South Bay a one-night-only preview of our 2013 Repertory Season with an amazing Inaugural Gala performance at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The rep earned some very complimentary reviews from publications around the Bay Area and we couldn’t be more thrilled! Every person who took the CPA stage on November 3 — from critically acclaimed concert violinist Rachel Lee to the company dancers of Ballet San Jose, both familiar and new — gave an awe-inspiring performance. We think the gala gave Bay Area audiences a really inspiring look at the new pieces in the coming season!

Now, we’ve begun to look ahead to Ballet SJ’s new production of The Nutcracker, which will make its world premiere on December 8. As we gear up for this run of Nutcracker, we pick up where we left off with our Artist Spotlight blog series. Meet another new face in the corps de ballet: Alex Kramer, an alumnus of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and former member of ABT Studio Company. Before the gala, we talked to Alex about what inspired him to become a dancer in Grand Junction, CO, his mentor at ABT, and his thoughts about leaving New York City.

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Maykel Solas, Mirai Noda, and Ballet San Jose Featured on ‘Aquí…Luis Echegoyen’ Tonight

BSJ Principal dancer Maykel Solas

BSJ Principal dancer Maykel Solas

Principal dancer Maykel Solas and Ballet San Jose will be featured in the second segment of popular Spanish language program Aquí…Luis Echegoyen. The program will air tonight at 11:00 PM on KTNC-TV Channel 42 (Channel 19 on Comcast).

Tune in this evening to see an interview Maykel taped during a break from Nutcracker rehearsals on November 28. The program will also feature footage of Maykel and Mirai Noda rehearsing the roles of Tsar and Tsarina from Act II of The Nutcracker. Whether or not you’re a Spanish speaker, you will definitely want to catch this backstage studio action!

By the way, Maykel and Mirai will be dancing the roles of Tsar and Tsarina in The Nutcracker on Sunday, December 18, at 1:30 PM and on Friday, December 23, at 11:00 AM!

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“Opening Up ‘The Nut'”: Ballet San Jose’s ‘Nutcracker’ Over Time

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FOR SOME, 2003 seems like the recent past. In 2003, the United States began the Iraq War and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online declared “democracy” to be the #1 Word of the Year. In 2003, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was released to rave reviews from critics, audiences, and (eventually) the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2003, Ballet San Jose performed a wide variety of pieces, from The Tempest to Appalachian Spring.

Yes, 2003 was a banner year. But it was eight whole years ago, and some things that were important and relevant then may not hold as much weight now, as we near the end of 2011.

Some things, however, persist over time – specifically, Dennis Nahat’s The Nutcracker, which Ballet San Jose has performed annually for over 25 years. As we prepare for another Nutcracker opening this Saturday, Dec. 10, it seems important that we take a look at a piece of the show’s history within our organization.

In 2003, Marianne Messina wrote a fantastic review of Ballet San Jose’s The Nutcracker. Published in Metro, a local weekly arts publication, “Opening Up ‘The Nut’” explored the differences between the classic Nutcracker and Dennis Nahat’s brilliant reimagining. Messina begins the article with the following words:

DON‘T FEEL BAD if you’ve seen The Nutcracker many times already and still don’t know the story line. By the time E.T.A. Hoffman’s popular tale made it to Russia for its ballet incarnation in 1892, Hoffman would barely have recognized it himself. Moreover, few of the story elements have remained consistent throughout the ballet’s century-plus of productions. For Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley’s Nutcracker, artistic director Dennis Nahat has dispensed with the candy coating (the Sugar Plum Fairy and the idea of representing countries as consumables) and brought back international potentates.

From there, Messina goes on to talk about the merits of our Nutcracker production, ranging from the technical:

Karen Gabay’s exuberant toe work as the gleeful Maria; the flawless timing and execution of pink-clad ballerinas combined with Nahat’s clever choreography…

to the emotional:

…as Tsarina Tatiana, Meijer made an exit that was so bittersweet in its delicate control, you couldn’t help flashing all at once on the days when the ideal woman was as controlled and fragile as a china doll…

to the bigger picture:

…[remembering] the fate of the Russian nobility, decimated just a generation after they were so gaily celebrated in The Nutcracker’s waltz, and on the precarious balance between beloved tradition and hopeful change.

It’s quite a remarkable read. Although the Company itself is now known as simply Ballet San Jose, many of the article’s points remain unchanged by the last eight years. Karen Gabay and Alexsandra Meijer still perform fantastically in the roles they danced in 2003. Dennis Nahat still puts a unique and emotional spin on a classic ballet tale every December. Ballet San Jose’s The Nutcracker continues to be a holiday tradition for a flourishing Silicon Valley arts community.

And still, some spark of magic, some feeling of novelty, keeps the crowds coming back to BSJ’s The Nutcracker year after year after year.

Some things don’t need to change completely in order to seem new again, and Marianne Messina’s 2003 article is proof of that very fact.

Read the article in its entirety here.

Updated Show Times and Ticketing Information:

PLEASE NOTE: The opening matinee on Dec. 10 at 1:30 PM is ALMOST SOLD OUT. There are still a few seats left in the balcony, but the floor is completely filled. Additionally, there is currently no GoldStar.com ticket deal for this year’s Nutcracker.

Saturday, Dec. 10 (OPEN) – 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Sunday, Dec. 11 – 1:30 PM
Saturday, Dec. 17 – 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Sunday, Dec. 18 – 1:30 PM
Tuesday, Dec. 20 – 7:30 PM
Wednesday, Dec. 21 – 1:30 PM
Thursday, Dec. 22 – 1:30 PM
Friday, Dec. 23 (CLOSE) – 11:00 AM (Special Morning show)

Box Office Phone: (408) 288-2800
Buy tickets online at http://www.balletsj.org

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Tales from the BSJ Box Office: Holiday Windows, Pink Trees and Old Friends

The holidays have arrived at the Ballet San Jose Box Office!

The holidays have arrived at the Ballet San Jose Box Office! (Photo by Dennis Keefe)

LAUREN AND DENNIS HAVE BEEN way too busy to blog lately — which is a really good thing! — but they did want to take a moment to wish everyone a joyous holiday season!

From Dennis:

I recently put up some icicle lights, a wreath, and a Nutcracker in the Box Office window. Meanwhile, Lauren has been assigned the task of putting ornaments on her pink holiday tree, but she seems to think that answering the box office phone is more important, so the poor tree is still only half decorated!

We are watching seats for The Nutcracker disappear before our very eyes as the number of online purchasers has increased drastically this year. There are a couple of performances that will soon be completely sold out!

We’ve been listening to holiday music to keep our spirits up while the weather turns colder and our days grow busier. Speaking of music, did you know that Lauren is a songbird? She has her own jazz band that performs  several times a month throughout the city. We can’t wait to hear her sing. We also have the pleasure of listening to the busy workers as they get the beautiful costumes ready for the show. There are roadboxes upon roadboxes full of costumes right outside our door.

Here’s another interesting piece of news: starting this Thursday, not only are we staying open until 6:00 PM — we’ll also have the wonderful assistance of Jess Hutchins once again! He is returning to the Box Office for the Christmas season because Lauren and I can no longer do it alone. Yes, we are THAT busy!

Mostly, we cannot wait to see this year’s production. Every season brings a new reason to see this production of The Nutcracker because every year the dancers, the lighting, the costumes, the sets all are just a little bit different than they were the year before. We love to stand in the lobby after the curtain goes up and watch the show on the TV monitors. We have so much fun pointing out the little nuances we’ve missed in the past. Maybe this year we’ll catch Lauren doing her best Cabriole (I looked that one up on Wikipedia) through the empty lobby!

Happy holidays!
Dennis (and Lauren) 

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Principal Casting for Ballet San Jose’s ‘The Nutcracker’ 2011

Today is the day many Ballet San Jose fans have been waiting for: the Principal casting for BSJ’s 2011 run of The Nutcracker is finally up! (NOTE: Casting is subject to change.)

12/10 (Matinee) – OPEN
Maria/Prince: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Tsarina/Tsar: Mirai Noda/Maykel Solas
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

12/10 (Evening)
Maria/Prince: Junna Ige/Ramon Moreno
Tsarina/Tsar: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

12/11 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Junna Ige/Ramon Moreno
Tsarina/Tsar: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

12/17 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Tsarina/Tsar: Beth Ann Namey/Maximo Califano
Drosselmeyer: Raymond Rodriguez
Mouse King: James Kopecky

12/17 (Evening)
Maria/Prince: Mirai Noda/Seth Parker
Tsarina/Tsar: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Drosselmeyer: Hao Bo
Mouse King: Maximo Califano

12/18 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Tsarina/Tsar: Mirai Noda/Maykel Solas
Drosselmeyer: Raymond Rodriguez
Mouse King: James Kopecky

12/20
Maria/Prince: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Tsarina/Tsar: Beth Ann Namey/Maximo Califano
Drosselmeyer: Raymond Rodriguez
Mouse King: James Kopecky

12/21 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Mirai Noda/Seth Parker
Tsarina/Tsar: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Drosselmeyer: Hao Bo
Mouse King: Maximo Califano

12/22 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Junna Ige/Ramon Moreno
Tsarina/Tsar: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Drosselmeyer: Hao Bo
Mouse King: Maximo Califano

12/23 (Matinee) – CLOSE
Maria/Prince: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Tsarina/Tsar: Mirai Noda/Maykel Solas
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

Pick your shows, ballet fans, and buy your tickets while they’re still available! Call the Box Office at (408) 288-2800, or visit balletsj.org to buy tickets online.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Ballet San Jose

Our Marketing Director Lee Kopp poses with "Nutty" from Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER, which opens Dec. 10, 2011.

BSJ Marketing Director Lee Kopp poses with "Nutty" from Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER, which opens Dec. 10, 2011.

AS THURSDAY APPROACHES, our staff is anticipating a short respite from a busy schedule full of holiday events. Here is a quick recap of some events we’ve had lately:

  • The most important event is, of course, The Nutcracker, which will open Dec. 10th and run through the 23rd. Our dancers, who are on vacation this week, have been rehearsing tirelessly every day. Tickets have been selling like hotcakes! (Dennis and Lauren declined to write a blog post for this week because they have been so busy fielding calls and taking ticket orders.) Our costume staff has been busy as well — though they’ve still had just enough time to give an interview about ballet costuming to Access Magazine. Even our Marketing staff has ventured out of the office to mingle and socialize at local arts events around downtown San Jose.
  • Just last Tuesday, Nov. 15th, Wilkes Bashford, Ballet San Jose and Gentry Magazine threw a fashion fundraiser from which 10% of the proceeds went to the Ballet San Jose School. “An Evening of Cocktails and Couture” was a smashing success. We were delighted to see many of our friends and biggest supporters, and our dancers and staff modeled gorgeous couture fashions for a good cause.
  • We’ve also planned some appearances for our “Nutty” characters for the rest of this month and the beginning of December. This past Monday, Nov. 21st, characters from our Nutcracker dropped by the Downtown Ice opening to skate and take pictures with attendees. The event, which was hosted by Hawaiian Airlines and the San Jose Downtown Association, featured special guest Kristi Yamaguchi and kicked off a seasonal San Jose tradition that is near and dear to many of us. Make sure you check out the ice rink sometime this winter!
  • If you missed “Nutty’s” appearance at the Downtown Ice opening, come out for the Christmas tree lighting at Christmas in the Park this Friday, Nov. 25th. Our Nutcracker characters will be here again, and they will have plenty of time to take pictures with you and your family. All are welcome!

That’s the news from Ballet San Jose. We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it, and a nice long weekend even if you don’t! Please be safe and happy this holiday season. You are all part of the BSJ family.

Cheers,
Ballet San Jose 

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“Super” Men to the Rescue: A Reflection on Supernumeraries by Les Reinhardt

Bob Sabo of San Carlos dresses as a Russian  Guard in preparation for a performance of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

Bob Sabo dresses as a Russian Guard for a performance of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

WHAT IS A SUPERNUMERARY? The term may be unfamiliar to many, but for dance companies and stage production staff everywhere a supernumerary is an integral part of any show. The internet’s font of communal knowledge, Wikipedia, defines a supernumerary as an “additional member of an organization.” An extra.

But if we simply leave it at that, what are we really missing? What is the real role of a supernumerary in a Ballet San Jose show like The Nutcracker?

We asked our Production Stage Manager Les Reinhardt to weigh in:

Supernumeraries, or as they are often called “Supers,” are an important component of any large-scale story ballet. Ballet San Jose has Supers in The Nutcracker, Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Toreador, Swan Lake, and Giselle. Supers are generally male roles, since most ballets require guards of some sort to stand around (The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake) — and some Supers have even gone as far as to be animals…like our 2 horses in The Toreador — which is why I’ve grown to call them our Super Men. (Though yes, we do have a few female roles, and in those cases they are our Super Gals.)

The Super Men of Ballet San Jose are really like members of the Company. One of our Supers is coming up on his 20th year of being in The Nutcracker this December, and that really is something to celebrate. We hold auditions for all of our Super Roles, and only the best Super Men are selected to be part of our shows. The Supers rehearse with a member of Artistic Staff and Stage Management alone. Then, when they are ready, they join rehearsals with the professional dancers. They share the stage during Technical and Dress Rehearsals, and take time out of their work schedules to help make our performances as great as they can be! I really enjoy getting to work with these Super Men on Saturdays as we rehearse their specific Nutcracker roles, and it’s great to see them master these parts.

(L to R) Angelo Delegeane of Milpitas, Bob Sabo of San Carlos and Aaron Daly of Fremont rehearse "Spain" from Act II of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

(L to R) Angelo Delegeane, Bob Sabo and Aaron Daly rehearse "Spain" from Act II of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

Being a Super Man is no simple task. It has been said time and time again by Daniel Gwatkin, BSJ School Administrator and former Company Soloist who runs our Saturday rehearsals, that “walking and running can be the most difficult things to do correctly onstage.” If you have to think about walking: take 9 steps, starting with the right leg, then stop in sync with your partner, then military turn to your left, then step downstage (towards the audience) with your inside leg closest to your partner for 2 steps, then military turn away from him… It can get overly complicated. Couple those steps with remembering to swing one arm naturally while the other is holding a spear that must constantly rotate so that the blade is always flat to the audience — and you’ve got one of the more difficult Super Roles in The Nutcracker.

While some roles are highly coveted, like our Priest, Chestnut Vendor and Major Domo (the man who calls the shots in our Grand Ballroom), they entail an even higher level of difficulty. These roles require the understanding, counting and memorization of music — a real sense of musicality. While the Priest must conduct the carolers and he and the Vendor must interact in time with the Company Dancers, Major Domo tells me when to take the curtain out on the Waltz, signals the Conductor when to begin to lead the symphony for the Grand Pas de Deux, and more.

These wonderful volunteers who make up our ranks of Super Men are a vital part of our story ballets. They fill our crowd scenes, make our castles look official, and carry Juliet’s body into the crypt. The show will  always go on with the help of our wonderful Super Men.

See you this December!
Les 

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Ballet San Jose to Offer Deep Discounts to Military Personnel for 2011 ‘Nutcracker’ Tickets

Act I, Scene 3: "A Curious Combat" between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Army, as performed by Ballet San Jose.

Act I, Scene 3: "A Curious Combat" between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Army, as performed by Ballet San Jose.

A VETERANS DAY ANNOUNCEMENT FROM BALLET SAN JOSE: Box Office Manager Dennis Keefe is excited to announce DEEP DISCOUNTS for all Military Personnel for NUTCRACKER tickets.

For all full-priced programs (those performed with Symphony Silicon Valley), military can buy tickets for themselves and their families at half price in sections 2, 3, & 4 of the theater. And for Family Matinee programs (which are performed to a recorded score and already discounted by 30%), military can use the senior/child discount of $5 off per ticket. This is the first time Ballet San Jose has given such a deep discount to the military!

Advanced tickets MUST be purchased IN PERSON at the BSJ Box Office at 40 North First Street in downtown San Jose. Military I.D. must be presented. Tickets can be purchased on the day of a performance at the San Jose Center For The Performing Arts, located at 255 Almaden Boulevard at the corner of Park Avenue.

PLEASE PASS THIS ON and let’s make it a great holiday season for our men and women in arms.

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Reflections on Ballet San Jose’s ‘The Nutcracker’: Marketing Director Lee Kopp

The company performs the Grand Ball in Ballet San Jose's 'The Nutcracker.'

The company performs the Grand Ball in Ballet San Jose's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Robert Shomler.

I love our Nutcracker ballet because of its wonderful scenario. It has such a strong second act. In most traditional versions of this story, Maria (or Clara as she is often called) spends all of Act II sitting on a pile of pillows and watching the dances from the Land of the Sweets.

Not so in Dennis Nahat’s version of The Nutcracker. Once Maria has rescued the enchanted Nutcracker Prince from the evil Mouse King, she climbs upon a giant white Snowbird and flies off with Prince Alexis on a world tour. They visit Spain, and Arabia and China…and at each stop they sample the food and drink of the country and learn the local dances. The are not “watchers”…they are “doers”! Once they reach the Prince’s home in Muscovy, Maria meets his parents, the Tsar and Tsarina, and she attends a marvelous Grand Ball held in her honor.

By this time, the character of Maria is completely transformed. At each stop, Maria’s experiences have changed her. She starts the ballet as a little girl playing with dolls, but by the end of her journey, she is a young woman. She will never be the same.

It really is a show to see. Dennis Nahat is a great storyteller!

Best wishes,
Lee

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