Cincinnati Ballet is a well-known and beloved contributor in a city that is flourishing with art of all kinds. Led by Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, this company has become recognized around the world for their brilliant ensemble and willingness to push boundaries in the world of ballet choreography. “The Nutcracker” is a holiday classic, but Cincinnati Ballet has made it uniquely their own since the World Premiere in 2011, with an endless showcase of top-notch dancers, larger than life set and costumes, and an ever-present pulse on what will make the audience smile and gasp in wonder…in this case, our very own tutu-donning Fiona the Hippo. And while seeing the hometown favorite twirling along with the sugar plum fairy is utterly delightful, it is the unbeatable combination of the extraordinary Cincinnati Ballet and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra that keeps me coming back for more than a decade to experience their unique and undeniable holiday magic.
For some reason, this year’s production seemed even better than previous years. Maybe it was Fiona? Or my girls being just a little bit older? Or maybe it’s that after almost 20 years in Cincinnati, this event has become one of my favorite aspects of a place that I am finally calling my hometown. It’s likely a bit of each, but it also feels as though the production itself ramped up the game in terms of attention to detail and seamless integration of proven principals dancing amongst almost 80 young dancers, some of whom are making their stage debut. Details such as a slightly new dance for the grandparents (still hilarious!), seeing the rats always present and lurking at the top of the curtain, and the perfect amount of snow falling in the Snow Forest all contributed to a show that left me and my family unable to take our eyes off the stage for fear that we might miss some of the magic unfolding.
The dance performances this year were outstanding, making it difficult for any of us to choose our favorites, but highlights included Chisako Oga as the Dancing Doll whose controlled movements were beyond graceful and on point, David Morse and Sirui Liu, who connected in a scene of pure beauty with their ethereal Snow Queen and King dance, and lest we forget the stunning, yet graceful athleticism performed by Melissa Gelfin as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cervillio Miguel Amador as the Cotton Candy Cavalier. But it was the incredible performance by up and coming corps de ballet performer, Serena Helene Hanavan, as Rose in the Land of the Sweets that left all of us marveling at her ability to shine even among a twirling entourage of flower fairies. With an incredibly deep bench in this company, it is always an outstanding display of talent, but it is the little touches like fluttering bumblebees 30 feet in the air and Herr Drosselmeyer’s magic and yes, even a giant hippo, that make this Nutcracker one for the ages. Favorite quotes from my girls include “The sugar plum fairy is more sugar plummy than I remembered!” “Thank goodness the little girl got a stuffed animal Fiona, so she could come to life,” and “How on earth is that chicken moving around?!”
In our house, the holiday is not complete without dressing up, going to a fancy dinner and seeing “The Nutcracker.” Whether this is your 1st or 22nd time seeing this show, make the time to sit down with your family and friends to experience it. This delightful showcase of talent and whimsy uniquely reflects Cincinnati as a place to live and enjoy art like no other. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! “The Nutcracker” is showing now through December 24 at Music Hall. Do not miss your chance to round out your holiday traditions.
Know Before You Go
For your littles, be sure to come early enough to take pictures at the many photo ops set up around Music Hall (matinee shows offer photo ops with the Snow Queen & Nutcracker 45 minutes before). Take some time to peruse the gift table offerings, ranging from dancing fairy ornaments to large nutcrackers in every variety. Last but not least, do not forget to grab their booster seat and a small chocolate treat to help them better enjoy the show!
Christi Geary is the proud mom of two girls (8 and 11), best friend and wife of her husband Brian, and an Associate Director at the Procter & Gamble Company focused on shopper innovation insights and analytics. She enjoys and participates in art of every kind, feeds an insatiable curiosity for learning every day through books and connecting with others, pursues different forms of exercise when she can find the time to balance out her foodie predilection (highly recommend DanceFix and Pilates Reformer), and delights in spending time with family and friends. Writing reviews for the arts is an absolute privilege and one she cherishes every day, with the hope that sharing her perspective will inspire others to embrace the arts.