Nuttin’ For Christmas

If you get nothing this Christmas, make sure you treat yourself to the L.A. Ballet’s delightful production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” The show opened at the Alex Theater last week and continues December 22 and 23 at Royce Hall, and the 29th and 30th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.

Pay no attention to the lackluster review in the L.A. Times. Instead, heed these words of FineArtsLA reader Sam M., who was so disappointed he didn’t win the Forty Unders ticket giveaway last week, he went out and bought tickets for his first night at the ballet.

“And it only cost me sixty dollars,” Sam wrote to us. “But seeing as how I had such a ball, you are forgiven. Also good was the lax security, meaning I got to sit in the orchestra section fifth row center without having paid for the tickets. I’d have felt like a fool if I’d paid $200 for the same tickets. Then again, I was so in love with the show, I felt bad that they didn’t have more money and perhaps if I could afford it I’d have given more. Oh, and naturally I’ve fallen in love with a ballerina. Or two or three. I don’t think my girlfriend approved.”

FineArtsLA recently spoke with L.A. Ballet cofounder and Denmark native Thordal Christensen, who choreographed the production with his wife Colleen Neary.

FALA: You inaugurated the Los Angeles Ballet with “The Nutcracker” last year. What have you learned since then?

TC: Once you choreograph a production and put it on the stage, it’s hard to go in and make too many changes. We’re trying to look at it with fresh eyes, because you always want to try to clean it up and make the story be the main thing. It can be anything from does it make more since for Drosselmeyer to go to the father instead of the children at this point, to anything that helps the story make sense.

FALA: Are the dancers more confident this time around?

TC: There’s no question they’re more confident. I could see that throughout last season: With every show we did, they got more and more comfortable and confident, and you need to be confident on stage. They’re looking fabulous. There are a few new dancers this year, some lovely girls and a new gentleman. It’s a really nice group.

FALA: How will the audience perceive this confidence? The dancing is sharper? The dancers are jumping higher? There’s more energy coming off the stage?

TC: Yes. Last year we had a group of 30 dancers who came from everywhere, and now they know what Colleen and I really want when they go on stage. That’s how you make a cohesive company, by working together. And not just doing one production together, but many, so they have a feeling of what it is we’re going for. It takes time.

FALA: And what is it you’re going for?

TC: Anything from musicality and phrasing to how they are on stage. We’re not a Russian company. We don’t necessarily act with gestures. We really try to become the people we are on stage.

FALA: A more natural approach.

TC: A much more natural approach, and I think a very Danish way of telling a story. There’s a long tradition in the August Bournonville tradition of how to tell a story, and I’m very much a child of that.

FALA: How would you characterize the production?

TC: It’s classically based; the costumes are fabulous. This was originally a production the Royal Danish Ballet did with an amusement park in Copenhagen. Because we had these two big institutions collaborating, we had a very good budget. When we started Los Angeles Ballet, I thought “Maybe we can get these costumes,” and they were very good with me. The costumes are fabulous: You’re talking about a $1.7 million production. But we did not get the sets, so we opted to set it here in Southern California in 1912, so the production has a local flair.

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