Ballet Delivers in Solid Second Act

After mediocre first half, HBC impressively showcases Christmas classic

Unnamed photo
Jeremy S. Singer-vine

A dancer performs in “The NutQRACker,” presented by the Harvard Ballet Company. The company’s winter production included original modern compositions and variations from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” ballet.


LOCATION: Harvard Dance Center

DATES: Dec. 16-17

DIRECTOR: Kate O. Ahlborn ’07 and Ebonie D. Hazle ’06

PRODUCER: Alissa C. Clarke ’07

Presenting excerpts from the Christmas classic “The Nutcracker,” the Harvard Ballet Company (HBC) gave a mostly pleasing, if occasionally middling, performance in their winter show, “The NutQRACker.”

Directors Kate O. Ahlborn ’07 and Ebonie D. Hazle ’06 neatly and rather evenly divided the program into two parts according to styles, although the distribution of the dancers’ skill levels and dance lengths in the two sections was lopsided. The lengthier first half was comprised of four modern pieces, while the second classical half—that was arguably more enjoyable—contained small group variations from “The Nutcracker.”

The recital began with the strongest piece of the entire performance: a four-person modern work entitled “Satie Pieces,” choreographed by Jeffrey D. Edwards, a student at Harvard Medical School (HMS). HMS student and pianist Sharon F. Kuo played while Marie “Molly” M. Altenburg ’07, Lauren E. Chin ’08, Larissa D. Koch ’08, and Jordan C. Walker ’07 danced with a quiet grace and wonderfully controlled movements, reminiscent of woodland sprites. In particular, Altenburg, with her impressive penché (balancing on one leg with the other lifted behind her in a perfect 180° angle) and Chin, with her beautifully fluid movements, notably stood out.

In a jarring contrast to the simple black costumes of the opening number, the subsequent large group dance, Sandra Goodnough’s “Tabibtotachi” (also known as “Journey/Travelers”) brought a burst of color and energy. The red, orange, and yellow costumes accented the Tarzan-esque music, and the dancers marched on stage—dancing in unison first and later in canon.

The lyrical pas de deux, “Will You Settle,” choreographed and performed in partners by a jeans-clad Walker and David L. Blazar ’06, made excellent use of the stage—and the two dancers showed expressive interaction with one another. However, the ending, perhaps composed in an effort to adhere to the modern penchant for stylistic anti-climaxes, achieved a sort of awkward close with a series of partner lifts that looked more like hopping than anything else.

Walker must have changed quickly in order to dance in the very next large number, Gianni DiMarco’s “Sensemaya,” the first of the dances to be performed on point. Opening with seven dancers crouched on the floor like animals, the technically and musically difficult piece proved to be a challenge. The black unitards against a red background emphasized the moments the dancers strayed from their unison, although as the piece progressed, they seemed to synchronize more successfully with one other.

The latter half of the recital consisted entirely of popular scenes from the Nutcracker: “Snow,” “Spanish Hot Chocolate,” “Arabian Tea,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” and “Coda”—which, strangely enough, was not performed to the traditional music entitled “Coda” or even the final “Apotheosis” but to Russian background music. Equally curious was that “Flowers” was performed by the corps de ballet en flat, while the Dewdrop Fairy, Morgan P. Richardson ’09, was en pointe.

Despite these unusual choices, Raymond W. Keller III ’08 and Erin A. Straw ’07 wowed the crowd with their performance of “Arabian,” which concluded with Straw as a “bluebird” flung over Keller’s shoulder in the closing lift. Surprisingly, the supposedly quieter characters Walker (the Snow Queen) and Richardson (Dewdrop) exhibited palpable and strong stage presence. The performers in “Spanish,” choreographed by Kathryn M. Funderburk ’07, danced with true flair, whipping their black fans and tiered skirts.

Katherine L. Penner ’07 was beautiful as the Sugar Plum Fairy. With excellent line and form, her performance of the famous Marius Petipa choreography was truly a pleasure to watch.

As usual, the lighting and costumes complemented the mood of each piece. However, on a minor note, HBC may want to invest in white and light pink leotards that are double lined.

Overall, HBC delivered a well-received performance. It is not only purists who will agree that the second half of the show was more enjoyable—and the recital ended on a strong and positive note with the smiles of both the ballerinas and audience.

—Staff writer Emily G.W. Chau can be reached at