S.F. Ballet, the archetypal holiday classic – Times Herald Online


San Francisco Ballet dancers Nikisha Fogo and Aaron Robison dance the “Pas de Deux” during performances of “Nutcracker” today through Dec. 30 at the War Memorial Opera House. (Contributed photo/Alexander Renef)

“Nutcracker” is the best-known ballet everywhere, in part because ballet companies, large and small, stage it during the December holidays and it is typically the moneymaker that keeps everyone on their toes, dancers to directors, paid and serves to underwrite other performances throughout the year.

Based on Alexandre Dumas’ translation of the original tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, Tchaikovsky’s classic, the last of his three ballets and first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, did not receive its U.S. premiere until 1944, when it was performed in San Francisco. Since then, it’s been the most-performed ballet in the nation.

In Helgi Tomasson’s version in The City, the ballet, featuring more than 100 cast members, opens in San Francisco on a foggy Christmas Eve in 1915. A holiday party is about to start in the Stahlbaum family home. Herr Drosselmeyer shows up. He puts on a magic show, complete with dancing dolls and gives a nutcracker doll to young Clara.

After the party, she can’t sleep without her Nutcracker. She falls asleep on the couch while holding her nutcracker and dreams about the toys from the party. That’s when giant mice show up for a battle (look for one of them munching on a piece of cheese during the kerfuffle), and the nutcracker defends Clara. The nutcracker falls in the battle, but Drosselmeyer miraculously transforms him into a prince.

That’s basically the set-up and is followed by the rise of a mammoth Christmas tree to swelling music (“The Christmas Tree”). Then it’s on to The Snow Scene (lots of artificial snow) and the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” music, then, in turn, on to The Crystal Palace, which looks somewhat like The City’s Conservatory of Flowers.

The Sugar Plum Fairy dances “Waltz of the Flowers” and  commands all her subjects to dance, and we hear “Chocolate,” “Coffee,” “Chinese,” and “Trepak.” There’s also “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” and, with a grown-up Clara and her Prince, the stately “Pas de Deux,” featuring Nikisha Fogo and Aaron Robison.

Performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday; 2 and 7 p.m. nightly Tuesday through Dec. 29; and 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 30 in the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave. (Parking is nearby in the Performing Arts and City Hall garages.)

For tickets, which range from $59 to $398, visit [email protected] or telephone (415) 865-2000.

Share post:



More like this