Nothing makes me feel more Christmassy inside than peppermint mochas and The Nutcracker. This year the Joffrey Ballet nailed the latter.
This comes as no surprise. I’ve been writing about Joffrey’s The Nutcracker since the beginning of time (or 2009, same thing) and it has never disappointed. This year was not particularly different, but when new traditions become old traditions, every year seems to be a little more special than the last. So for me, this year’s opening night was a reminder of the three great years I’ve had as a Chicagoan. I thought about every Joffrey performance I’d seen and every hot chocolate I’d sipped at Christkindlmarket. I thought of the first time I went to the Bean with my roommate in the freezing cold. I thought of my first tiny Christmas tree. I thought of the friends I’ve made here and the short plane ride I take every Christmas to see my family. I’m not sure if I’ll ever leave Chicago, but during the Joffrey’s two-hour performance I wanted to stay here forever.
The Sugar Plum Fairy will do that to you. The company’s stunning performance included a brilliant April Daly as Sugar Plum Fairy. Daly stuns audiences with grace and strength and just likability in general. When some dancer’s faces were strained, Daly appeared to be at ease.
The Plum Fairy choreography aside, my two favorite parts of The Nutcracker are the Land of Snow and Coffee from Arabia. I’ve seen Victoria Jaiani perform both, but this year Friday’s Snow Queen and Coffee from Arabia dancer was Christine Rocas. Land of Snow was as lovely as always—truly a transformative scene with the snow twinkling down and settling on the stage. And a nice winter reprieve from all this warm weather we’ve been having (not complaining, I swear!). The Snow Queen also came out on a white (fake) horse this year, which if I’m not mistaken is a new addition, and an extra sparkly touch to the scenery.
Coffee from Arabia was enchanting as well, and Rocas made for a beautiful Arabian dancer. But she doesn’t quite provide the shocking flexibility that Jaiani has in the past. There’s something about Jaiani’s shin literally touching her forehead that is hard to beat.
Overall an amazing show again this year, and truly a reason to celebrate Joffrey’s 25th anniversary of The Nutcracker. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch holiday Lifetime movies and cry about how much I love Christmas and Chicago.
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