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Expect energy for ‘Nutcracker’

Robbie Rodriguez, top, plays several roles including the Rat King and Abigail Ryckman is Clara in the New Mexico Ballet Company production of “The Nutcracker.” (courtesy of randy talley)
Robbie Rodriguez, top, plays several roles including the Rat King and Abigail Ryckman is Clara in the New Mexico Ballet Company production of “The Nutcracker.” (courtesy of randy talley)

Jolie Sutton-Simballa likes to have a few new dancers for the New Mexico Ballet Company’s productions of “The Nutcracker.”

“It perks up everybody. It brings fresh energy,” said Sutton-Simballa, the company’s artistic director. “They revitalize the roles.”

For example in the Saturday, Nov. 24, and Nov. 25 performances of “The Nutcracker” there will be two guest soloists from the American Ballet Theatre: Stella Abrera is the Sugar Plum Fairy and Alexander Hammoudi is the Cavalier.

In the Dec. 1 and 2 performances, two principal dancers of the New York City Ballet – Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle – will fill those same roles as guests. Kowroski and Angle danced in the company’s “Nutcracker” last year.

There also will be a handful of brand-new members of the New Mexico Ballet Company who will be dancing in the holiday classic. Among them are Kira Peterson, who studied in the Joffrey Ballet’s training program, and Robbie Rodriguez, a locally trained dancer who is doing the roles of the Russian, the Rat King and a Flower partner on both weekends.

This production represents the first time Rodriguez is dancing “The Nutcracker” as an adult. He was about 8 or 9 years old when he and his sisters had roles in the same company’s production of the ballet. He had earlier begun dancing at a ballet folklorico dance studio in the South Valley.

Over the last 12 years, Rodriguez said he’s been dancing jazz, contemporary and hip-hop, performing with an ensemble called The Elite.

“This pushes me back to classical ballet and finding that technique,” he said. “I was at a point where I had been doing the same kind of stuff for a while. And I was looking to experience something different.”

Rodriguez said this is an opportunity for him to expand his dance vocabulary and instruction.

“I’m dancing with so many talented people,” he said. “And it’s a company that’s involved with the community.

“For me, dance has always been an outlet and way for me to work through my own personal issues,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know where I’d be without dance. I’ve been blessed to work with people who have encouraged me.”

If you go
WHAT: “The Nutcracker”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, and 2 p.m. Nov. 25. Repeats 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2 p.m. Dec. 2
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, Center for the Arts, UNM campus
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $11 to $45 for the general public and from $9 to $36 for children and are available at www.newmexicoballet.org, www.unmtickets.com, at ticket offices at the UNM Bookstore and the Pit, by calling 925-5858 or toll-free 877-664-8661 at area Albertsons supermarkets or at the door

He wants to share his experiences with youngsters and inspire them to get involved in any of the arts.

The company’s production of “The Nutcracker” will use two different choreographies. For the first weekend’s performances, the company is using the original 1892 choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The second weekend will have the 1954 George Balanchine choreography.

“The Petipa is the more traditional classical ballet that probably has an even tempo in the music and in the dancing … whereas the Balanchine is faster; the choreography is more syncopated, complicated and intricate,” said Sutton-Simballa.

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky composed the famous music of “The Nutcracker.” The New Mexico Philharmonic under guest conductor David Felberg will perform it for all of the ballet company’s performances.

Felberg said he’s conducted orchestras playing the different tempos, and there’s never been an issue.

“We make a quick adjustment and it seems to work out fine,” he said.

“We do two orchestral rehearsals before the first weekend so the soloists on that weekend rehearse with us. The soloists for the second weekend, I meet with them. I watch them (rehearse) and try to internalize their particular interpretations without the orchestra.”

Personally, Felberg said, he never tires of Tchaikovsky’s music.

“It’s just so beautifully written, so colorful, emotional. It really gets me every time,” he said. “And I love playing it when I’m in the orchestra.”


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