Gifts of the season

Posted: Thursday, December 09, 2010

The annual diet of sugar plums and dew drops is before us once again, and Juneau Dance Unlimited's "Nutcracker" production brings a few new feastings for the eyes this year that will make capital city audiences yearn for one more bite.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Like the huge gift box arriving in the mail that, when opened, reveals a multitude of smaller wrapped presents waiting to delight, the "Nutcracker" contains a variety of gifts for the season.

Primarily pleasing is the number of principle JDU dancers now "en pointe" (in pointe shoes); advanced students Kiana Ford, Misha Culver, Madison Truitt, Gabrielle Duvernay and Anouk Otsea are carrying more athleticism this season than in years past. Particular attention should also be fixed on Herr Dosselmeyer, not because he brings in the nutcracker doll that initiates the magical transformations of all involved, but because he is Philip Krauter, the original JDU "Nutcracker" choreographer who started things off six years ago. He returned to the company in October.

"You are trying to tell a story, but also I like to put in as much entertainment as possible so the audience is entertained while the story is told," Krauter said. "A story within a story. It is even vaudevillian in a sense ... I tried to remember everything I have ever done in the past that seemed to work so the audience is entertained constantly."

The core pieces of the ballet have expanded in number because of the company's increasing development, which translates to a more entertaining opening party scene and more powerful "Land of Snow" number before intermission. The Dancing Doll and Soldier Doll (Maire New and Otsea), and new party movements make this a mood setter.

"This is the best we have ever done," Ford said as she caught her breath between numbers. "Mr. Krauter choreographs a lot of big movement. It takes a lot of breath trying to get those last jumps in. He lets you get into your role."

Ford plays Snow Queen, Dew Drop Fairy, Dancing Doll (on Saturday and Sunday, while Culver performs it Friday) and in Mirlitons with top dancers Culver and Truitt.

There is beauty in the costumes and the music - and the acting as well. While the opening party scene has always been opulent, Clara's mother Frau Silberhaus (Sabrina Javier) is refreshing and Clara (Annaka Brayton) and Fritz (Sydney Truitt) play wonderfully together.

The Nutcracker Prince (Luis Torreblanca) is again delightful as he battles a Mouse King (newcomer Tanner Olliff), who holds on to the mouse army's tails as though they were a chariot to pull him into battle, and Clara aids by stomping on mice's tails.

"The battle scene is my most favorite part," Krauter said. "We were able to have pyrotechnical effects, which was a big deal. I don't want mindless action. I try to still tell a story."

After the intermission comes the trip to The Magic Castle On The Mountain Of Sweets, as the younger company Angels welcome the Sugar Plum Fairy (California Ballet Co.'s Sarah Jones), and a series of "divertissement" dances, including Spanish (New), Arabian (Madison Truitt), Chinese (Duvernay, New, Otsea, Marissa Truitt, Darian Perov) Russian (Duvernay, Otsea), Mirlitons, and Mother Ginger (Bob Fagen) with his little "polichinelles."

Said Krauter, "I am really proud of all our dancers. They are very young and very, very talented. We try to present everything professionally so they get an example of what a professional company would do, so the student feels like they are participating in fine art - they are being exposed to a professional look and feel. The choreography is advanced for kids of that age."

The second act also features "The Waltz Of The Flowers" with Sugar Plum and Cavalier (California Ballet's Jones and Hugo Carreon) and Dew Drop (Ford) and Flowers (Culver, Duvernay, Natalie Millay, New, Otsea, Perov, and the Truitts), followed by the Grand Finale.

"I want the audience to be entertained," Krauter said. "To have had a good time at the ballet. Secondly I want them to be educated by the dance. I would like to think that their experience of seeing the 'Nutcracker' will make them develop an appreciation of dance and come to see other performances, in spring and fall, by us or other performers that come to Juneau at all levels of fine art."

Added Snow Queen Ford, "So often the holidays can be stressful. This encourages Juneau to feel the spirit of the season."

Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium. For more information, visit

Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263.

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