It's difficult to imagine a holiday season without a production of “The Nutcracker.” But the ballet's premiere, which took place in St. Petersburg 120 years ago this month, didn't exactly make a lasting impression on Russian audiences.
Indeed, had it not been for the orchestral suite Peter Tchaikovsky extracted from his ballet, which did become a favorite in the concert hall, “The Nutcracker” might never have developed into the success it enjoys today.
This week, the Oklahoma City Ballet will present what has become an anticipated holiday tradition, a fully staged production of “The Nutcracker” featuring the Oklahoma City Philharmonic conducted by Joel Levine.
Choreographed by Robert Mills, the production will feature Tye Love in the dual roles of Hans and the Nutcracker Prince. Amanda Herd, Da Young Jung and Callye McCollum will alternate as Clara; Jung, McCollum and Miki Kawamura will alternate as the Sugar Plum Fairy; Io Morita, Yui Sato and Alvin Tovstogray will alternate as the Cavalier.
“I started dancing because I thought ‘The Nutcracker' was the coolest thing when I saw it at age 4,” Love said. “Here was this larger-than-life character, a prince who saved Clara from the Mouse King.
“For me, it's about finding moments to connect with Clara. Hans is a little bit older than Clara but not quite an adult. He's a little more reserved in the party scene (that opens Act I) but ultimately, he loses his inhibitions and falls in love with her.”
Herd's love for ballet also dates back to her childhood. As a young dancer who participated in numerous productions of “The Nutcracker,” Herd wondered if she'd ever have the opportunity to portray Clara, the young girl who is magically transported to the enchanted Kingdom of Sweets.
“I look back and remember being mesmerized by the holiday,” Herd said. “I've always loved Christmastime because I had such a joy for dancing. My parents never had to talk me into going to dance class.
“For me, Clara was the ultimate role; she was everything about ‘The Nutcracker.' She's a young girl coming of age who has romantic feelings for someone for the first time. She's in that place between a child and an adult. It's really a story about finding herself.”