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The Nutcracker Chronicles: Vegas but No Showgirls

The New York Times ARTS BEAT The Culture At Large Published: December 23, 2010 By: Alastair Macaulay LAS VEGAS — “All is calm, all is bright, Round yon Virgin …” Sinatra sings ill-advisedly amid the hubbub of my hotel lobby. In what’s said to be Las Vegas’s quiet season, this is one of the busy days. In the vast pool in front of the Bellagio, hundreds of fountains are dancing like Rockettes to the “Hallelujah” chorus. Paris Las Vegas has whole streets, boulevards, precincts, as well as innumerable shops and restaurants. Fortunately it’s easy, within this, to find the Théâtre des Arts – lined with reproductions of Madame de Pompadour and other Parisian celebrities (as well as Barry Manilow). The Nevada Ballet Theater has been dancing one “Nutcracker” or another here for several decades, and if the times didn’t clash I could also catch another production in the city this day, by Anaheim Ballet. People who meet me in the lobby laugh at their own surprise to have found that Las Vegas contains two productions, and they assure me too that within this brash noisy city there’s a friendly small town. The production here is by Peter Anastos, artistic director of Ballet Idaho. His company danced it earlier this month in Boise, but I wasn’t able to see it then and since I’ve never visited Las Vegas either, this is my opportunity to catch both the city and the Anastos “Nutcracker.” He is enduringly celebrated as founding director-choreographer (and a lead ballerina) of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, but has also been choreographing non-drag and classical ballets around the nation for 30 years. And there’s no drag in this “Nutcracker” – not even a Mother Ginger. His Snow scene is the most collectedly classical response to the music I’ve ever seen, with the Snow Queen and Snow King and male and female Snowflakes much more concerned with maintaining a calmly imperial order than in surrendering to the whirl and gathering storm of Tchaikovsky’s music drama. Despite some reordering of music in both acts and an interpolation from “The Sleeping Beauty,” this is a clear, efficient production. The Stahlbaums live in a minor palace (but with a painted Christmas tree); the Nutcracker is an adult even when he’s presented to Clara in doll form; she’s an adult too. It all works. Admittedly, it’s not very Vegas – several “Nutcrackers” are more over the top than this — but Mr. Anastos’s professional skill shows best in the lively individuality of all the Act 2 divertissements. There are some child bakers who assemble a three-tier cake, and each of the national dances arrives with its own retinue of children. But the adult Nevada dancers are warm, clean, and strong. I must confess I had expected a much less accomplished trouple. And here’s a touch that’s not just Vegas but basic showbiz: They and Mr. Anastos know – amazingly few do – how to make the ballet’s finale the real climax of all that has gone before. When they return to the stage, it’s not just more of the same. They seem recharged.

Thank you Colorado Springs!

Ballet Idaho made its first appearance in Colorado Springs dancing The Nutcracker over Thanksgiving weekend. We were produced by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, a wonderful orchestra that played beautifully for us. The musicians, staff and many members of the audience told us it was the best and most lavish Nutcracker they had ever seen! We were really happy to be working with such a wonderful group of people there and it looks like the Thanksgiving weekend in Colorado will become an annual feature of the Ballet Idaho schedule. In September, Alex Ossadnik and Racheal Hummel went down to Colorado to coach the local ballet teachers and their students in our production. Using a DVD of last year's Boise performances, they took everyone through the show. Alex visited Colorado again in early November to see how the kids were getting along and he reported they were doing magnificently. When the company arrived on Thanksgiving Day we were nervous about the Friday. We had never rehearsed with the children and never heard the orchestra. Friday was a difficult day. In the morning we did a complete technical rehearsal for the sets and lights, at 2pm we had a dress rehearsal, which was the first time we were with the orchestra and children together. It was rough, but we got though it. We had to establish tempos with the orchestra, iron out stopping and starting after variations, all the different things about my production, including a slight re-order of the numbers in the score. The maestro, Thomas Wilson, was fantastic and very patient. He did a superb job with the orchestra and they played beautifully! All the children were wonderful! They exceeded our expectations in every way! There was only one tragedy and that was a girl playing a Salt Water Taffy sailor. At the technical rehearsal she tried to stop the boat coming in too fast and she shattered some bones in her arm! She never danced in the show, although she came to show off her cast! Sometimes working in the ballet can be dangerous... The volunteer staff and parents were brilliant! They had the whole thing beautifully organized, an impressive feat that is even more so when one considers they had never seen our production before and weren't completely sure how the children's parts fit in. The volunteers and parents worked tirelessly to make the show a success. We can't thank them enough for making everything work so smoothly! All in all, a great debut for Ballet Idaho. We hope to have a long and wonderful relationship with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic going forward. They are a great orchestra, the Pikes Peak Center is a beautiful theatre (bigger than the Morrison Center!) and the community gave us resounding standing ovations. We nearly sold out all 4 performances --- and look forward to doing so next year. Thank-you, Colorado Springs! We love you! -Peter Anastos

Ballet Idaho's The Nutcracker at Morrison Center-Idaho Statesman

Ballet Idaho’s sparkling production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet brings the holidays alive with magic and dance. Artistic director Peter Anastos’ version tells the story of Clara and her magical life-size nutcracker doll. The doll transforms into a prince to defeat the Mouse King, but needs Clara’s help. To thank her, the Prince takes her to the Land of the Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy and all kinds of confectionary characters dance for her. You’ll see delightful performances from more than 125 area children from the Ballet Idaho Academy in the roles such as Clara and her brother Fritz, Angels, Bakers and Saltwater Taffy Sailors. Friday, December 10 Idaho Statesman Dana Oland
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Nutcracker Photo Gallery!

Don't miss this season's celebration of The Nutcracker! Enjoy some highlights and images from Ballet Idaho's 2009 presentation of The Nutcracker. [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157625425586971"]

So your child wants to perform?

So Your Child Wants to Perform, By Amy Pence-Brown Print
Encourage Their Interests with Auditioning Tips and Opportunities Is there anything cuter than watching your wee ones twirl and leap on stage so proudly (or sometimes so shyly) in their pink tights or black bow ties? When my Lucy took her first ballet classes at Pat Harris School of Dance in Boise, a tiny and timid 3-year-old at the time, we struggled with performance anxiety. By the time her recital came eight months later, we bought roses from the vendor at Kuna High School for our brave dancer with glitter in her hair and a sparkle in her eyes. She had memorized her routine and performed it in front of the largest audience of her life. As our kids grow and become more interested in the performing arts, be it dancing, singing, or acting, we as parents learn right along with them—especially if our little performers want to audition for more intensive stage performances that are bigger than the traditional end-of-year dance recital. Luckily, some local companies offer great information for parents of performers-to-be and some tips. Read more in the December issue of Treasure Valley Family Magazine.

Meet the artist: Ballet Idaho’s Jared Hunt


Copyright: © 2010 Idaho Statesman

Published: 12/05/10

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At 5-foot 9-inches, dancer Jared Hunt is a ballet dynamo. Athletic and powerful, he moves with silky, smooth coolness. Maybe that’s why the Snow pas de deux in Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” is one of his favorite roles. You can see him dance it with ballerina Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti next weekend when Ballet Idaho presents Peter Anastos’ interpretation of the ballet at the Morrison Center. Hunt is in the third season of his second run with Ballet Idaho. He also danced with the company under Toni Pimble’s direction in the 2000-’01 season and part of 2002. He was a soloist with Nevada Ballet Theatre when he met Anastos, who was in the process of putting the current Ballet Idaho together. “He made me a great offer and I’m so glad I came,” Hunt says. “Boise feels like home and I have two beautiful ballerinas to work with.” Hunt partners with Affrunti and Racheal Hummel. You’ll see him dance with both in “Nutcracker” as the Snow King and Cavalier. Hunt took his first ballet class at 6, but dropped dance in middle school, “because it wasn’t cool for guys to dance. I really regret it because it really set me back,” he says. He started again when he was 16 and never looked back. “I have loved every minute of it. I have traveled the world, performed at the Kennedy Center, and danced some of the greatest roles in ballet,” Hunt says. “I believe that the next step in my career is going to be just as exciting.” Now, he’s matured as a performer and is developing as a choreographer, which is a surprise, he says. “I never planned on being a dancer, or a solist or principle, but there is an obvious progression a dancer goes through, so when I say I’m not planning on being a choreographer, I know that’s what’s coming. I love finding interesting music and making it come to life.” Hunt spoke from Colorado Springs, Colo., where Ballet Idaho performed its production of “The Nutcracker.” Q: How many “Nutcrackers” is this for you? A: I truly have no idea. Professionally, I have been in at least 6 or 7 productions, but who’s counting? “The Nutcracker” is actually how I got started as a ballet dancer. My mom sent me to an audition for Ballet West’s “Nutcracker” when I was 7. I danced the role of Fritz for 4 years. I think many professional ballet dancers got started this way. I watch the children in Ballet Idaho’s “Nutcracker” and wonder how many of them will be principal dancers someday. Not only is it a holiday tradition, but also it’s a ballet rite of passage. Q: Most ballet dancers have a love / hate relationship with “Nutcracker.” Where do you fall? A: I might be one of the few ballet dancers left who love “The Nutcracker.” I think that Tchaikovsky’s score is absolutely brilliant. I love the music, and dancing to it is so rewarding. When you have music like that to dance to, you can’t help but feel like something special is happening on stage. Q: What’s your favorite role, from this or any other ballet? A: I loved dancing George Balanchine’s “Tarantella” pas de deux. It is dynamic and exciting and a total crowd pleaser. I have never worked so hard in my life, or been so out of breath, but it’s 19 minutes of hard athletic dancing, and I loved every second of it! In “Nutcracker,” I like the Snow pas. It’s my favorite music in the show. Q: What’s the role you would most like to dance? A: I love contemporary work and would love to experience more of it. If I could choose any role, I would choose something from Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” I’m sure I’ll never get the chance to be a part of that production, but I love choreography that deals with self-expression and cultural artistry. In the classical rep, the one role I would love to do that I haven’t done yet is “Bluebird” pas de deux from “The Sleeping Beauty.” Q: Why dance? A: I come from a long line of athletes. Many of my cousins and brothers played high school and college sports, and I even have an uncle who was a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. So, I think athleticism is in my blood. I also had a mother that instilled an appreciation of the performing arts in her children. We were constantly exposed to opera, theatre and dance. There is something about the combination of athleticism and artistry that intrigues me. Ballet dancers are always striving for perfection, which is inevitably unattainable. There is something about that struggle that keeps me coming back for more. Q: If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be doing? A: I would probably be in social work. I am someone that hates to see people suffering and I always want to help in any way. I had a counselor in high school that changed my life. She encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me the confidence and drive to become who I am today. She impacted my life beyond what any of us could have ever imagined. I want to pay that forward someday. I want to help people become the best they can be, particularly young adults who need a little guidance, or help, from an understanding and compassionate adult. Q: What’s been the best thing about moving to Boise? A: The sense of community. I have met so many wonderful people who work so hard to make Ballet Idaho a success. There is a sense of ownership in this community that is unique to Boise. Q: Who most inspires you? A: I’m inspired on a daily basis by everyone I’m surrounded by. Life is hard, and when I see people enjoying themselves and accomplishing the things they want I am inspired. I guess you could say that I’m inspired by the human spirit. Q: What are your words to live by? A: “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one” — Eleanor Roosevelt. This quote has inspired me as an artist and as a member of a community. No one ever gets anywhere by blending in. I definitely don’t blend in. Q: What’s on your dressing room table? A: Chocolate, Tiger Balm, and Emergen-C. Three things a dancer can’t live without. Q: Do you remember your first time on stage? A: I do … It was in a church talent show. I was singing “Hello My Baby.” It was a talent show set up like the “Gong Show.” Luckily, I wasn’t “Gonged,” but who’s going to gong a 5-year-old in a vest singing lyrics like “Hello my rag time gal?” Dana Oland: 377-6442 Read more:

2010 Nutcracker Auditions

Thank you to everyone who braved downtown Boise on Saturday to audition for Ballet Idaho's 2010 Nutcracker!

(Thursday 9/30) Nutcracker cast list coming soon!

Nutcracker Rehearsal Schedule for October 1 & 2

Academy Parent Season Subscription Discounts

Parents who enroll in the Academy for the 2010-2011 academic year AND order a season subscription, can receive up to a 20% discount on the cost of your tickets. New this year: 2-show, 3-show and 4-show packages, PLUS youth prices too! Call the office at 343-0556 to enroll and order today!

Tickets on sale Monday, November 1st for Ballet Idaho's The Nutcracker

Date: October 28, 2010 Contact: Heather Calkins 343-0556 x 22 Single tickets go on sale Monday, November 1st for Ballet Idaho’s holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Join Ballet Idaho at this classic holiday tradition on December 10th, 11th, or 12th at the Morrison Center, made possible as a gift to the community “from our family to your family” by the J.R. Simplot Company. With extraordinary choreography, beautiful sets and costumes, this celebrates the season in dazzling fashion —come watch a joyful and elegant Holiday Party at the Stahlbaum household, a children’s Christmas Garland Dance and discover unusual gifts from Herr Drosselmeyer -- a whimsical mechanical Mouse, a life-size Ballerina doll and, of course, a handsome Nutcracker doll. An astonishing growing Christmas tree captivates as we enter into a thrilling battle scene and delightful lands and kingdoms. Tchaikovsky’s classic score is performed live for each performance by the Boise Philharmonic musicians conducted by Robert Franz. A large and enthusiastic cast of student dancers and singers from throughout the Treasure Valley join the professional company on stage as angels, bakers and a variety of sweets. This year’s cast features Ballet Idaho Academy students returning to the stage: Cristina Zimmerman as Clara and the brother/sister duo Brenna and Sebastian Houk dancing the roles of Clara and Fritz. New this year is Jake Wolford, who will perform the role of the Nutcracker doll. Jake, age 17, trained since he was a child in hip hop and jazz and started taking ballet classes only two years ago. He joined Ballet Idaho Academy this year and will also travel with the entire company to tour Ballet Idaho’s The Nutcracker in Colorado Springs, CO this Thanksgiving weekend hosted by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. When asked what it means to have the opportunity to perform with a professional company and work with experienced dancers, he replied, “I hope it rubs off and I can continue dancing!” The Ballet Idaho Academy encourages talent and rewards hard work by giving students meaningful opportunities to perform on stage with the company. Ballet Idaho Academy is the only dance academy in the State of Idaho and the intermountain west with a professional company affiliation. Single tickets start at just $25 and range to $55 with both adult and child pricing in all sections. Contact your Select-A-Seat outlet, call 426-1110 or visit Discounted group tickets are also available by calling the Ballet Idaho office at 343-0556 or visit (((Editors: Photo and interview opportunities with dancers and the Artistic Director are available. We would be happy to help in making this a feature story for your publication.))) # # # #

What’s in that drink?

This past Tuesday Ballet Idaho dancers and staff held a taste-testing soiree at the Tully's in BODO. It was a rainy, windy fall absolutely PERFECT to be all cozied up in our neighborhood coffee house to taste and decide on selected Nutcracker drink specials! Terry, Jerry and Jill treated us to a variety of latte's, mocha's, chai's and tea's. By overwhelming taste tests...the famous drinks to make it to the Tully's-Ballet Idaho 2010 Nutcracker drink menu were: Sugar Plum Chai, Nutcracker Mocha and Clara's Cocoa. Thank you to Sarah, Audrey, Jessica, Angela, Kathryn, Phyllis, Racheal, Ryan, Jared, Kim, Catherine, Julie & Lacey who came down and helped with this fun event! A big thank you to our friends and neighboors at Tully's! Ballet Idaho is very lucky to have community support from you! Stop by your local Tully's to try a Ballet Idaho Nutcracker beverage with your friends and family and join us at the Morrison Center on December 10, 11 & 12th for Ballet Idaho's family tradition, The Nutcracker! [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157625262653750"]
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