Loyce Houlton's "Madame Bonbonniere"
It's that time of year when visions of sugar plums dance in our head, and sugar plum fairies dance on local stages. Productions of the Nutcracker abound, and there's a little something
for just about everybody. Which one will you choose?
2. The Nutcracker According to Mother Goose - by Zenon Dance Company, on stage at the Cowles Center this Saturday and Sunday. As the title implies, this one's a bit of a mash-up with other familiar children's stories.
3. Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantasy, also at the Cowles Center, Dec 23 - 31 - featuring the "hilarious antics" of Madame Bonbonniere.
4. Ballet of the Dolls presents its new adult take on the classic with "Nutcracker: The Lost Act." Dance critic Linda Shapiro describes it as "a crafty mix of slick nightclub acts, sleazy cabaret, and surreal Fellini-esque shenanigans." Performances run through Dec 31.
In future years you might consider including Continental Ballet's Nutcracker, based in Bloomington. Many who have not seen Continental think that it's a suburban studio with a recital-level production. This is not the case. Lead dancers include Alexander Smirnov, formerly of MDT, Yuki Tokuda, on green card from Japan, and soloists who moved here from Arizona, Washington State, Chicago, Michigan and the East Coast. The formal company is paid. The company is listed by the State Arts Board as available for funded touring in rural Minnesota. Continental did 13 performances of the Nutcracker this season, 5 in their home theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, and the others in Morris, Maplewood, Red Wing and the Sheldon, Saint Cloud at the Paramount, Detroit Lakes, and Alexandria. Continental also does special performances, some of them excerpted, for K-12 schools and for (a long relationship) Girls Scouts of America. The distinguishing characterists are that Continental is formally and faithfully "classical," not just with the Nut but in its whole repertoire, and it is faithfully family-friendly (even the war with the rats is seriously abridged as one of several gestures to reduce violence and keep the show within 100 minutes to accomodate very young audiences.) There. That's my case. I confess conflict of interest. I've performed with Continental for 21 years, mostly in character roles. I've been Drosselmeyer, Doctor Coppelius, the Tutor in Swan Lake, the Russian in the Nutcracker, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella, and Mother Ginger in the Nut, among others.