By Kelsey Leiter
Five members of the Roxey Ballet previewed pieces from its 17th annual production of “The Nutcracker” on the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall stage on Friday, Nov. 18, the last of the Brown Bag Series events to be offered this semester.
After warming up at the event on Friday morning, Roxey Ballet hit Kendall Hall’s main stage starting on Nov. 26 with more than 100 professional and pre-professional dancers. The main show will also run Dec. 2-4.
Mark Roxey, the founder of the ballet troupe, discussed the development of the production over the past 17 years. “When we started, it was a one-thousand-dollar production. Now, it has grown to a nearly three-quarters-of-a-million-dollars production,” he said.
The first piece at the Nov. 18 demonstration was a preview of Roxey’s adaption of Tchaikovsky’s timeless ballet number “The Land of Snow,” in which the Nutcracker turns into a Prince and sweeps Cara, a young German girl, away to an enchanted forest where dancing snowflakes greet them. The majesty of the scene, which concludes Act One in the full production, was brought to life by dancers Jillian Mitchell, a ballerina since age three, and Sergio Alvarez, who originally studied ballet in his hometown of Bogotá, Colombia.
The vibrancy of the Russian Cossack dance, which is part of the second act of the ballet, was embodied by dancer Se-Yong Kim, originally from Korea, who has danced for Roxey’s company for more than six years. Kim braved the stage alone, although he is typically accompanied by nine other dancers in the full-length production.
Dancers Julia Cobble, who began studying dance at age six, and Giovanni Ravelo, who, like Alvarez, also began dancing in Colombia, performed “Sugar Plum Pas De Deux,” the final scene Act Two, in elaborate purple and gold costumes.
Frank VanNote, a 1965 College alumnus who studied music, noted the tradition and timelessness of the “The Nutcracker” and asked Roxey, “Is there any leeway in the choreography?”
Roxey explained to the audience that there is actually a lot of leeway, and that every production in America is different.
“It’s based on the dancers, on the pairings,” he said. “They all have different talents and specialties, and we try to capitalize on that.”
The Roxey Ballet dancers also showed off their talents in two pieces not featured in “The Nutcracker,” the first of which was from the fable “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” The fable tells a story about a seagull and focuses on life, flight and self-perfection. Cobble and Kim performed the scene in which Jonathan is taught how to teleport.
Mitchell and Alvarez concluded the show with a piece portraying a young couple that struggles with the fact that the boyfriend must take up arms to defend the country after 9/11. The music that guided the piece featured President Bush’s address to Congress: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Near the end of the piece, Mitchell was lifted onto Alvarez’s back, clinging to him as he shot off his rifle. The scene was intense and impactful.
The intensity of the dancers in the pre-show was a testament to how spectacular the final performance of “The Nutcracker” would be when it premiered on Saturday, Nov. 26, and bodes well for the upcoming performances.