Dances Patrelle presented The Yorkville Nutcracker last week, a unique Nutcracker with a New York City flair. The production follows the familiar classic, but in New York locations such as Gracie Mansion, New York Botanical Gardens, Central Park, and the Dakota apartment building. The production from Francis Patrelle has been a staple in New York for the past 22 years, providing a delightful and affordable alternative to the pricey New York City Ballet standard in which ticket prices are $100 for seats in the upper reaches of Koch Theatre.
The production gives ample opportunity for young up and coming dancers, representing 18 New York ballet schools including School of American Ballet, JKO School at ABT, Joffrey Ballet School, and Ballet Academy East. Some of the young dancers have performed in the production for many years; in his greeting to the audience in the program, Patrelle says farewell to four “graduating” dancers that have blossomed and flourished in the production over the years. NYCB dancers Chase Findlay danced the Snow Boy and Erica Pereira was the Dew Drop before they joined NYCB.
Leads in the major roles are established dancers with NYCB dancers in the Grand Pas de Deux. Lourdes Lopez and Jock Soto danced in the first Patrelle Nutcracker with appearances in subsequent years by Jenifer Ringer, James Fayette, Miranda Weese, Jared Angle, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Craig Hall.
This year Abi Stafford and Stephen Hanna were the featured dancers in the Grand Pas de Deux. The Snow Queen was Therese Wendler and Maximilien Baud was the Snow King. Wendler has danced for Connecticut Ballet while Baud danced for NYCB, San Francisco Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet. Also in a lead role as the Snow Prince was Anthony Hoyos.
The opening action of the Yorkville version takes place at the home of Hamlin and Jane Babcock, owners of Gracie Mansion. This Christmas Eve 1895, they host Mayor Elect William L. Strong as house guests for a Christmas party in honor of their children. The mayor invited dignitaries and businessman from various countries to celebrate, all with bold and colorful costumes. Even Theodore Roosevelt (Strong’s police commissioner) makes an appearance in a bear suit. Uncle Noah (Drosselmeyer in most versions) arrives and passes out presents to the children. The first act has much dramatic action, led by Owen Taylor as a very entertaining and expressive Uncle Noah. Uncle Noah gives Mary (Clara or Marie in other productions) a Nutcracker that resembles Yellowstone Kelly, an American soldier, hunter, scout, and adventurer of that era. The rest of the scene is familiar as Mary falls asleep at midnight to a growing tree with giant mice scurrying about. Yellowstone Kelly comes to the rescue, clad in a comical red outfit with giant head with a long beard, nothing resembling the traditional Nutcracker. After the battle, he reveals himself as…Putnam, her brother who broke the doll.
On to the Snow Scene, a unique act with dancers in dark costumes, skating on a pond in Central Park. Therese Wendler was the Snow Queen and the Snow King was Maximilien Baud. The pas de deux was simple, but done with great grace. Anthony Hoyos was the Snow Prince. I’m not familiar with Anthony, but he was energetic, with several effortless solos.
The Act II Kingdom of Sweets divertissements allows the young dancers to show their stuff. My favorites were:
- Itzkan Barbosa as the Dew Drop in the Flowers dance. She showed great command with ample technique, nice turns and extensions.
- Shannon Maynor in the Arabian divertissement without a customary partner. She was sultry, with nice extensions and timing.
- Kayla Fields in the Spanish dance had great flair and energy.
Abi Stafford and Stephen Hana provided much style and grace in the Grand Pas de Deux, which is similar to the New York City Ballet version. Clearly, they are seasoned pros who have done this before. Both danced with nice timing and musicality.
Patrelle’s Nutcracker is a joyful work, filled with nuance as the audience takes in the New York elements of the work. He does a great job of combining the youthful energy of the students with the elegance and steadiness of the experienced pros.