Review: Classical Ballet Academy’s “The Nutcracker”

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Photo courtesy of Classical Ballet Academy Facebook page.

The holiday season is a time for tradition, and one of the biggest traditions is The Nutcracker. The beloved ballet encompasses all the highlights of this time of year: parties, festivity, gifts, snow, sweets and treats, and . . . well, maybe not the rats.

Part of Classical Ballet Academy’s eleventh annual winter productions, this original version of The Nutcracker showcases the Academy’s pre-professional dancers. These young ballerinas all have a bright future ahead of them. As you watch them step and glide, leap and pirouette, you’ll admire their grace and strength and realize their dedication and the hours of practice and the love and passion for the art that has gotten them to the stage. You can tell they’re excited to be where they are and that they’re looking forward to what lies ahead.

The ballet opens with the guests traveling to a grand party hosted by young Clara’s family. It’s a joyous event, with dancing, gifts, tiffs among the kids, and performances by life-size toys. After the guests leave and the clock strikes midnight, Clara’s dream takes the stage. The rat invasion is quite a sight, and the rat costumes—complete with the glowing red beady eyes—had my 4½-year-old clutching my arm. The cats are a nice addition to the toy soldiers as they defeat the rats and their king and queen.

Then it’s off to the Land of the Snow. The scene is a magical sight. Snowflakes in the form of elegant ballerinas in white, along with their queen and king, dancing beautifully as snow falls from above is exactly what every young ballet enthusiast dreams of. Even my husband gave an “Oh!” of admiration when the ballerinas formed rings of white around the royal couple.

After a 15-minute intermission we are transported to the Land of Sweets and entertained by spry peppermints; Spanish Chocolates with a touch of flamenco; elegant mirlitons (a tube-shaped pastry; disclosure: I had to look it up, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the squash); playful fortune cookies that emerge from beneath a long, colorful Chinese dragon; and Russian tea cakes with cultural flair. All these treats are followed with Arabian Coffee. The dancers in this role wow us with their amazing flexibility and contortionistic abilities. Then Mother Ginger and the bonbons that emerge from her enormous circus-tent-like skirt raise the adorable factor as the youngest ballerinas steal the show.

Graceful waltzing flowers take us back to classical ballet and welcome the beloved Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in their lovely pas de deux. It’s all topped with a finale featuring all the dancers on stage in a visual feast of color.

Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall is the perfect venue for this intimate production. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and the audience members feel like they’re part of it all.

IMG_8464This production is a great intro to the famous ballet and an inspiring showcase of young talent. My 7½-year-old son was riveted (especially when we learned that one of his schoolmates was a bonbon), and my 4½ -year-old daughter, who has an interest in ballet and has taken classes through Parks & Rec, watched in wide-eyed amazement but got antsy during the second act. To be fair, it was her usual bedtime, but it made us realize that she isn’t quite ready for a 2-hour ballet. (She was quite disappointed when she learned that she wouldn’t be dancing along with the ballerinas.)

In addition to The Nutcracker, the Classical Ballet Academy offers several original productions this season: Cracked, an alternative version of The Nutcracker that features contemporary, modern, and jazz dance; The Children’s Nutcracker, a condensed version starring beginning ballet classes; and The Nutcracker Sweet Suite, which showcases the Academy’s youngest dancers, ages 2½ to 6.

With these great offerings, you’re sure to find the perfect performance to add to your family’s holiday traditions.

Classical Ballet Academy’s “The Nutcracker” performances are December 19th and 20th only for 2015.

Jade and her family were given tickets to attend this performance on behalf of Metro Parent-PDX Kids Calendar for review. She was in no way compensated for her opinions.

Jade Chan

Jade Chan

Jade Chan is a native Portlander who returned to her roots after short stints on the East Coast. She remembers a time when Lloyd Center was an open mall, the Pearl consisted of warehouses, OMSI was where the Children’s Museum is now, and traffic jams were rare. A freelance editor and a mom of two, she enjoys sharing her love for the arts and her (ever-changing) hometown with her family.
Jade Chan