Though the mice battling gingerbread soldiers will be doing a modern improvisation, "The Nutcracker" performance by Ballet Ariel at the Lakewood Cultural Center will be mostly traditional. A sugar plum fairy will rule the cold, sweet lands and a little girl will meet a mysterious nutcracker on Christmas eve.
Dance company founder Ilena Norton Ballet Ariel is known for modernizing classics.
“For me, my style is to do things that are very beautiful and interesting to watch,” said Norton, who choreographed the Nutcracker production. “I think people enjoy our shows because of that, they are both interesting and the choreography is very beautiful.”
The production in Lakewood is a “fairly traditional” version, she said. The sugar plum solo and duet, for instance, draw from original choreography by Marius Petipa, she said, but her production is “updated with our own touches.”
“One thing that makes our works so interesting is that we do bring in some contemporary movement in some parts of the ballet,” she continued. “Like in our battle scene, our mice are doing a modern improvisation which is actually kind of unusual for the nutcracker.”
Productions traditionally have a lot of slow and stately dancing, Norton added. She wanted hers to be more “lively and kind of intricate” instead.
“In the snow scene, 'Waltz of the Snowflakes,' I try to sort of create some sense of the movement of snow in the way that the dancers moved -- the speed of their movements and the type of movements that they were making,” she said. “Versus a lot of times a lot of productions are just more traditional ballet stuff. It doesn’t exactly invoke snow, you know.”
She founded Ballet Ariel in 1998 and is known for original ballets and adaptations, including "Ballerina" by Degas, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," "Tale of Molly Brown" and "Sleeping Beauty’s Dream."
"The Nutcracker" is a classic for the holidays because of its artistic layers -- from dance to music, Norton said.
“It’s a beautiful ballet," she said. "With the Tchaikovsky score as the backdrop, it’s what makes 'The Nutcracker' so popular: the beautiful score that he wrote for it. He created these different worlds with his music, of the snow and the sugar plum castle, and different countries the people travel from to celebrate.”
Performances at Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Pkwy., open at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. It runs at the same time on Dec. 11, 17, 18, 22, and 23. There are 7 p.m. showings on Dec. 16 and 17.