article by Stephen Humphreys photos by Phil Free and Stephen Humphreys
As we round the bend to Christmas there is more ballet toe-pointing and pas-dedeuxing than we ever imagined. While the productions differ, they are all striving for the most elegant lines through technical perfection.
Recently we featured rehearsal shots of the Alabama Ballet. This week we put on display the Birmingham Ballet, which opens its production the same weekend of December 9. The Alabama Ballet features the licensed Balanchine version. The Birmingham company offers a traditional version with all the high wire machinery for the dancers to fly to aerial choreography.
You know the tale. What more could a young girl ask for at Christmas, than for all her dreams to come true? After sneaking downstairs at midnight to play with her new Nutcracker doll, Clara is swept up in a fantasy of toy soldiers,
giant rats, snow fairies, magic and mystery. After saving her beloved
Nutcracker from the King of the Rats, she is whisked away to an
enchanted land and dances the night away in his arms, meeting a host of
strange and exotic characters, before she is finally transformed into a
Alabama Ballet is one of only six companies in the world, and the only one in the Southeast licensed by the Balanchine Trust to perform the production developed for the New York City Ballet.
Set to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ features choreography by Balanchine and opulent props and scenery that range from an 18th century German home, to a snow storm, to a dream-like Kingdom of Sweets. The 150 costumes, originally designed by NYCB costumer Barbara Karinska for the 1954 premiere have been painstakingly replicated by the Alabama Ballet’s costume shop. The production includes the company’s entire roster of 35 dancers in alternating roles and over 80 Community Cast members from the Alabama Ballet School and the Birmingham community.
This week we feature shots of the Birmingham Ballet rehearsing. The Birmingham Ballet production company consists of professionals dancers joined by a community cast of talented youth performing works by the original director, Alfonso Figueroa, who left for New York to concentrate on choreography for ballets around the country, and current director Cindy Free. The overhead shots show when The Snow Queen, Whitney Renfroe, enters. Katherine Free plays Clara with Carl Dean as Drosselmayer. Cole Companion is the Nutcracker Prince and Gina Maiola in the pink tutu plays the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Don’t go to the wrong place. If you have tickets for the Alabama Ballet, that is at the Wright Center at Samford, and in fact you will come out all right either place as long as you have tickets. The Birmingham Ballet will hold its performances at the BJCC December 9-11. www.birminghamballet.com/. The Alabama Youth Ballet is also performing Stevan Grebel’s Nutcracker at Pelham High School December 10 and 11. http://www.nutcrackerballet.net/html/alabama. html. The Alabama Ballet will perform on the same Friday through Sunday, and then again the next weekend, December 16-18. http://www.alabamaballet.org/ balanchine.shtml.
And then, of course, if you can make it to the UK, there is a production by the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Patron Her Majesty the Queen President HRH The Prince of Wales Vice-President The Lady Sarah Chatto