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‘Nutcracker’ gets recostumed

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Katherine Liljestrand portrays the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Repertory Theatre’s “The Nutcracker.” (Courtesy of Jeff Giese)

Katherine Liljestrand portrays the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Repertory Theatre’s “The Nutcracker.” (Courtesy of Jeff Giese)

A summertime excursion led Katherine Giese to change a wintertime performance.

Giese visited the Albuquerque Botanic Garden last summer. What she saw there resulted in the Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico rechoreographing – and recostuming – a key element of its production of the “Nutcracker” ballet. The element is the famous “Waltz of the Flowers” in Act II.

“I love going to the Botanic Garden, and last summer seeing all the dragonflies and the lily pads there I got inspired to do a completely new ‘Waltz of the Flowers,'” said Giese, the choreographer of the production and the executive/artistic director of Albuquerque-based ballet company.

“I was starting to visualize just the calmness of the lily pads on the water in the summer. If you toss a rose petal on the water, how would they move? And then the movements of the dragonflies. How they go up and down and dart to and fro,” Giese said.

Even before visiting the Botanic Gardens, she and costume designer Laura Pierce were talking about changing the costumes for “Waltz of the Flowers.”

“We didn’t know what direction to go in representing the flowers on stage,” Giese said.

Her trip to the Botanic Gardens gave them the direction they needed. In the waltz piece are six flowers and four dragonflies. Yes, dragonflies.

And Giese has the character of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Katherine Liljestrand) dancing in it as well.

“So it’s definitely a different look,” Giese said.

“Waltz of the Flowers” is about an eight-minute-long piece in Act II, while a group of divertissements, or diversions, in the same act are anywhere from one to three minutes in length, she said.

Giese said she tweaked the divertissements, too.

“Doing (‘Nutcracker’) year after year after year, you have to keep it fresh for all involved, myself included,” she said.

Another way that Giese likes keeping the popular holiday production fresh is to pick dancers for different roles. The ballet company holds open, citywide auditions every year for “Nutcracker.” And at those annual auditions there are people who haven’t danced with the company before, some who have never danced “Nutcracker” anywhere and even seasoned BRT company dancers, she said.

“I try to feature different dancers in different roles in different years and in different productions,” Giese said.

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