Tchaikovsky Abridged: Oklahoma City Ballet’s The Nutcracker

I know that to the forcefully ironic it might seem a little melodramatic to admit, but as the richly composed music of Tchaikovsky swelled—music that I must have heard a million times in television commercial of the past—with the trained dancers interpreting a story I’ve sadly never seen before, a large tear welled up in my right eye, for I knew I was watching pure art.

You see, ever since I learned that my late uncle Elfego Esparza was a world-renowned opera singer in the sixties and seventies—a bass, mind you—a newfound love for the classical arts has been awakened inside me. And though I’m but a spiritual novice, I recently attended my first every ballet, a dress rehearsal of Oklahoma City Ballet’s The Nutcracker: Short & Sweet.

This year has not been kind to the Civic Center Music Hall and its mostly canceled slate of performances, but with an abbreviated seating capacity and an abridged take on this Christmas classic, Clara and the Prince will dance for at least one more year in Oklahoma, with performances running from Friday, December 18th through Sunday, December 20th.

As my significant other and I made our way to our extensively distanced seats for Thursday’s dress rehearsal, as the lights came down and the libretto began, as the light orchestrations started, you could hear the feet as the living snowflakes make their way across the stage; I’ve always wondered how they trained themselves to stand on their toes like that. It’s superhuman.

According to my significant other—who was cast as a soldier in this ballet at age 7 in Muskogee—this opening sequence was the truly shortened portion of the two acts, but it highlighted the most beautiful aspects of the story—Clara is taken to a magical world—including a painstakingly choreographed sequence that was rehearsed a few times, this being the last rehearsal before showtime the next day.

I wouldn’t make a good musical director, mostly because I thought it was perfect the first time.

But instead they go right into act two, a glorious ensemble piece focusing on the various dancer displays that were around, I guess, in 1892, including Russian, Chinese, Arabian and Spanish, all respectfully presented. But the standout stars of the show are the Cavalier, Jonathan Batista, who will make anyone believe that a man can fly, and DaYoung Jung as Clara, the young girl on this somnambulistic adventure.

By the end I was silently weeping, having viewed something of such extreme beauty—the early stages of Stendhal syndrome?—that I confessed to my significant other that, when the virus is over and art can safely resurrect into the world, I wanted to see more of it, especially ballet.

I don’t want to say that I am a man obsessed, but I’m pretty close.

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Photos by Jana Carson. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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