A Holiday Classic Revisited

Patsy Kline’s soulful belting is not the standard soundtrack of the Harvard Ballet Company’s usually classical repertoire. But tomorrow night,

Patsy Kline’s soulful belting is not the standard soundtrack of the Harvard Ballet Company’s usually classical repertoire. But tomorrow night, as Kline croons out “I Fall To Pieces,” the company’s major performance of the year does anything but fall down, much less into pieces. Instead, the edgy first act—which also includes a ballet set to the soundtrack from the movie pi and another danced to opera music—is followed by selections of George Balanchine’s renowned choreography of The Nutcracker.

Not just any university dance company can get the rights to perform Balanchine’s choreography—normally far too expensive for a 30-some member company like the Harvard Ballet. Co-Directors Katie S. Daines ’04 and Caroline L. Donchess ’04 were able to score the rights to use Balanchine’s moves in two dances free of charge because of Daines’ connection to the renowned School of American Ballet in New York City. Daines, as well as three other members of the company she says is saturated with amazing talent and excellent training, attended the school and there became sufficiently “fluent in the Balanchine technique” to be able to perform his celebrated steps.

Daines and her company are thrilled to be performing Balanchine’s choreography. “It’s a privilege to dance his stuff,” she says. But the prestige of the choreographer is, if not met, at least approached by the talent of the company. The company boasts highly experienced performers, two of whom have taken years off to dance professionally for the likes of the New York City Ballet, the premiere dance company in the nation.

The show this company is putting on is a collaboration with the Crimson Dance Team and is billed as The Nutcracker with additional dance pieces. It opens tomorrow night on the Rieman Center stage.

The directors, Daines says, chose The Nutcracker as the main event for their single show of the year in hopes that the ballet’s popularity would draw crowds to see a “sweet and nice and pretty” show full of nostalgia and holiday spirit. Daines emphasizes, though, that the show is more art than it is a cozy blend of sugar plum fairies and dancing glasses of hot chocolate. “It’s good dancing,” she says. “We’re not kidding around here. This is not a puppet show.”

Even the less technically demanding pieces are artistic in their own right. The Patsy Kline piece, choreographed by Liz M. Santoro ’01, is a soulful medley full of love-lost woe humorously exaggerated with over-the-top swoons and emphatic shoves. At one point in the medley, Kristin E. Ing, a student at the Graduate School of Education, performs to Kline’s “She Got You” in a solo for which the non-standard vocal music in the background makes the emotion of the dance even more potent.

Also non-standard is a dance, part of the company’s repertoire, that is set to music from the movie pi. This piece boasts both technically demanding dance skill that brings the dancers to their pointed toes and a score with ominous and throbbing club-like beats. A few minutes before the world-famous steps of Balanchine’s genius grace the stage, the three pi dancers circle chaotically to music that might signal the end of the world. A shrieking pierce of sound ensues, followed by a deep voice that breaks the cacophony to declare: “Mathematics is the language of nature.”