Of Mice, Sugar Plum Fairies and Nutcracker Princes
One of my most anticipated holiday joys was always my kids’ Nutcracker piano recitals. I would close my eyes while those crisp, delightful notes conjured up delicate, snowy, spicy visions at once homey and intimate, and at the same time a dreamy adventure to festive foreign places. When I was introduced one season to Ballet Hawaii’s Nutcracker, that excitement was exponentially multiplied: The enchanting procession of dancers – adorable little ones, and others sinewy with movement and musculature that tells you they’re clearly at the top of their game – and scene after scene of opulent sets, attractive costumes, and that glorious music.
“We’re very blessed to live in beautiful Honolulu because in the middle of winter people love to come out here,” says Ballet Hawaii artistic director Pamela Taylor-Tongg. “Performances normally have only a couple of principle dancers. What will be seen on our stage is an entire production of principal dancers from leading companies.”
Among the guest artists is Cambodian Sokvannara “Sy” Sar, whose rise to ballet stardom was documented in the feature film Dancing Across Borders. Each lead artist has earned a ton of awards and accolades; suffice to say they are world-class, cream-ofthe-crop talent. In the local contingency are 185 of Ballet Hawaii’s students, as young as 5. KITV weather anchor Moanike’ala Nabarro will make a cameo. Hawaiian artist (from D.C.) Puanani Brown (relative of Olomana’s Haunani Apoliona), with American Ballet Theater based in New York, will be making her featured Ballet Hawaii debut – if Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath doesn’t impede her flight.
Students practice their roles for the party scene, battle scene, Waltz of the Snowflakes, Waltz of the Flowers and more, and the week before Nutcracker opens, the guest artists, who will bring to life the Doll, and the Spanish, Chinese and Russian dances, among others, begin arriving.
“It’s a wonderful thrill for our students to be on he stage with these incredible guest artists,” says Taylor-Tongg. “They’re great role models for the younger dancers. They’re helpful and instructional and they share a camaraderie with one another backstage.”
Taylor-Tongg adds that there really are “vicious ‘Black Swans'” out there, but she doesn’t invite them into her flock. “We don’t want to raise a generation of divas.”
There you have it. Nutcracker offers a way to break in the holiday season with wholesome, family entertainment that’s deliciously transportive.
“We change the choreography every year, and we change the staging and the roles,” adds Taylor-Tongg. “It will still be the traditional Nutcracker, but it’ll be new and fresh. We have incredibly colorful costumes and delightful sets, and a lot of moving parts in the scenery – it’s always fun for young and old.”
the TICKET stub
When: Nov. 9-11
Where: Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall
More Info: ballethawaii.org
Spotlighting the Fringe
Fringe: unconventional, extreme, marginal, peripheral. Usher in the second annual Oahu Fringe Festival. “The Oahu Fringe Festival brings together emerging, original works by performers you don’t see in the mainstream performing world,” says co-producer Louise Hung. “These are artists who are trying something new, who are literally on the fringe of the art world. The Fringe is nationwide and worldwide. It started in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it has grown to be global. You could literally go to a Fringe Festival every week somewhere in the world.”
The three-day performing arts spree takes place Nov. 8-10 at The ARTS at Marks Garage, The Loading Zone and other Chinatown venues. The lineup currently boasts 15 to 20 acts, but search for Oahu Fringe Festival on FB to get the latest, or visit oahufringe.com.
“Come with an open mind, and come expecting to see something that you may not usually get to see in this community,” says Hung. “We have an amazing arts community in Honolulu, but for it to get stronger and that much more original and exciting, we have to grow and learn from other people who bring their experience to the Fringe Festival. You get to see what people are doing, in the United States and beyond, in your community for a relatively low cost. It’s a treat – you get to travel without traveling.”
Shows are generally under 60 minutes and are uncensored, so they may be squeaky-clean or they may drop a few swear words or even some clothes … but who’s judging, right? This is the Fringe.