Indianapolis Ballet's 'Nutcracker' is a plum

December 19, 1996|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Even with the abundance of "Nutcrackers" this season, it wasn't difficult selecting the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre as the one to see. This quickly growing company has been building up steam ever since it was fortified with several Russian dancers from the Kirov and Bolshoi ballets as well as performers from Ballet West and the Joffrey Ballet. Last weekend's performance showed Baltimore just how good a regional ballet company can be.

Every "Nutcracker" is different; the music may be the same, but the artistic interpretation varies from choreographer to choreographer. The Indianapolis Ballet Theatre's version of "The Nutcracker," with libretto and choreography by former Kirov star Eldar Aliev, is a beautiful, dazzling, grown-up production with elaborate sets by Simon Pastukh that is more a real ballet than a showcase for budding ballerinas.

E.T.A. Hoffman's tale of transformation feels complete in this production as Aliev uses a brief prologue and epilogue to tie both ends neatly together. We watch as the characters spring to life as the author writes his story. The use of tableaux that opens both acts was well thought-out, for the entities, posed mid-action, seem to be lifted from an illustrated page in a book. This is not a child's dream but, rather, adult inspiration.

Another interesting facet of this "Nutcracker" is that the relationship between the Prince/Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara is made clear. Dancers portraying Herr Drosselmeyer's mechanical dolls show how Ratilda, the jealous Rat Queen, turned the Prince into "The Nutcracker" while his sweetheart, the Sugar Plum Fairy, watched in horror. Clara's selfless devotion returns the prince to his human form and to his true love. In gratitude, he shows her the Kingdom of Sweets.

The Indianapolis Ballet Theatre does not have the spice of the Miami Ballet or the sophistication of the San Francisco Ballet, but it does have solid dancing as evidenced by principal dancers Karen Scalzitti in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Alexander Vetrov as her consort. Vetrov aptly anticipated Scalzitti's actions so that her leaps into his waiting arms were soft and welcome. Scalzitti's calculated risks and conscientious footwork were impressive.

The production's flaws were minor. In the first act, the Grandparents' repeated minuet didn't fit the music. And in the Snowflake section, the dancing looked dutiful rather than capricious.

It was a pleasure to see the second-act dances performed without the hype that normally attends this section. Gone were Mirlitons and the gaggles of adorables. In their place were satisfying and substantial dancing by a fine cast of dancers.

'The Nutcracker'

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

When: Tomorrow at 7: 30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets: Adults, $19-$37.50; children under 12, $9-$27.50

Call: (410) 481-SEAT or (410) 494-2712 for group tickets

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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