Patrelle’s dance “The Yorkville Nutcracker” at New York’s Hunter College takes audiences on a magical Christmas journey through Olde New York

Now in his 33e year, Manhattan-based non-profit ballet company Dances Patrelle (dP) celebrates the 25e anniversary of the artistic director and founding choreographer of Francis Patrelle The Yorkville Nutcracker with a weekend of four performances at Hunter College. The annual tradition of family celebrations was revamped and reinitialized in 1895 in New York City by Patrelle, whose work includes more than 50 original ballets choreographed in a wide range of styles for his eponymous company.

Photo courtesy of Danses Patrelle.

The reworked staging of the dP of 19e-A Christmas Must-Have in Two Acts of the Century takes audiences on a magical tour through New York City, with stops at some of its most familiar landmarks – Gracie Mansion, Lake Central Park, and the Grand Conservatory of the Bronx Botanical Gardens – to enjoy the iconic characters from the Russian classic of 1892, as well as real characters from New York’s past, a large number of dignitaries from around the world and people from different countries and a wide range of ethnicities, representative of our melting pot culture, dancing to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. It’s a unique combination of narrative ballet with a lesson in New York history, including well-known characters like Mayor William L. Strong and his family, Theodore Roosevelt (then chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners), and the Babcocks (owners of Gracie Mansion before it was sold to the City, to later become the Mayor’s official residence), as explained in detailed program notes by Steven Burns and Robert Dorf.

In keeping with Patrelle’s mission to nurture and celebrate dramatic ballet, inspire and encourage aspiring dancers, and make art accessible to all, the production features a large ensemble of young children and students from eleven participating ballet schools who want to learn and received the invaluable opportunity to perform on stage with seasoned troupe members and guest performers.

Photo courtesy of Danses Patrelle.

This year’s outstanding list of principal dancers includes Abi Stafford (who recently retired after 21 years with the New York City Ballet) as Sugar Plum Fairy, Tyler Angle as Cavalier (appearing courtesy of NYCB), independent artists Maximilien Baud as Snow King and Graceanne Pierce as Snow Queen and Christopher Charles McDaniel as Snow Prince (courtesy Dance Theater of Harlem). Their consummate talent, grace, strength and agility in stunning solos and seemingly weightless pas-de-deux not only dazzled audiences, but surely provided the perfect models for their future cast mates. Other highlights include Shannon Maynor performing Arabian entertainment with exquisitely elegant extensions and the light and magnificent Dance of the Flowers of the corps de ballet, with the lovely demi-soloists Tanja Whited and Miranda Berlin.

The performance is enhanced by painted canvas and backdrops (by resident decorator Gillian Bradshaw-Smith) and lavish costumes (by resident costume designer Rita B. Watson) that evoke Olde’s time, style and place. New York, and lighting that captures the progression of hours, both outdoors and indoors, on Christmas Eve (by resident lighting designer David Grill). On the morning I attended, there was a technical glitch in the sound system’s prerecorded music that caused a brief delay, but the intrepid performers finished the scene and returned to the stage once it has been corrected. This was another important lesson for young ballet students – the show must go on, and it did.

Duration: Approximately one hour and 50 minutes, including intermission.

The Yorkville Nutcracker plays until Sunday December 12, 2021 at Dances Patrelle, performing at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, East 68e Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, NYC. For tickets (priced at $ 69, with discounts for extended family, groups, students and seniors) visit the box office, call (212) 772-4448 or go in line. Before entering the room, all members of the public must provide proof of vaccination along with photo identification and must wear a mask when entering the building and during all time inside.

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