Dance: Which Nutcracker? Try This One Out for Size

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‘Tis the season. Those sugarplum folks are turning up all over South Florida. Among the most festive of their appearances will be an early evening show at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Sunday, Dec. 8 (and then at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center Dec. 13-15 and at the Parker Playhouse Dec 21 & 22. They also have a children’s matinee performance Dec 13 at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center). This is the night the Art Ballet Theatre of South Florida will present its Nutcracker, and not incidentally also celebrate its 16 years of dance in the South Florida community.

Arts-Ballet-Theatre-of-FloridaWhat makes this Nutcracker unique? The answer is simple: its director. Russian born Vladimir Issaev grew up amid the world’s most traditional Nutcracker performances and is committed to keeping that classicism alive and well. “No dancing on semi-point, a la Balanchine,” Issaev says, referring to the Nutcracker of the American neo-classical choreographer. Every dancer in Issaev’s version of the ballet is rigorously on point. That includes a many great children. Here too, Art Ballet’s presentation is unique. “I don’t know any other South Florida performance that casts so many children,” says Issaev. “My Nutcracker is full of children and it is danced for children; after all, isn’t Christmas most especially a season for our children? ” He continues: “My most treasured reviews come from the parents who tell me that their entire family, including perhaps a three or a four year old, sat spell-bound throughout the entire ballet.”

If this Nutcracker prides itself on engaging even the youngest members of its audiences, small surprise that Issaev has asked puppet-master Jan Hammond to come join the celebration. Hammond is familiar to South Florida audiences as designer of the puppets from the touring Lion King production. What can audiences expect from him in Nutcracker? “Sheer beauty,” Issaev says as he sighs.

So how did Issaev end up in South Florida? He had the degrees and the work experience of both a choreographer and a master teacher of classical ballet before he left Moscow at the age of 33. “When I became 33 I was suddenly sure that this was a year when I should change my life. It is strange, sometimes, how these feelings come over one.” Issaev went first to Venezuela where he worked for 10 years with the Ballet Nacional de Caracas. A great love brought him to Miami 15 years ago.

Since then he has established a school of dance with 400 pupils, who range in age from 3 to 18. He has also established a dance company with members coming to him from literally over a dozen of countries, from Europe to Latin America to the Far East. Why do they seek him out? “So many companies focus exclusively on modern or neoclassical dance. My dancers are looking for a repertoire company with deep classical roots.” Issaev’s Arts Ballet has toured recently in Indonesia, Poland, and Mexico. They presented Stravinsky’s Fire Bird in Japan.

7695406654_f134854ed2_oThat same dance company as well as South Florida’s children can be seen in Issaev’s Nutcracker, and not only at the Jackie Gleason Theater, but in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale as well.

But only at the Jackie Gleason will the Arts Ballet Theatre offer its VIP patrons a chance to mingle with its dancers, sugar plums and the rest of the gang at a pre-performance reception.

The Nutcracker comes to The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave; Miami Beach, FL 33139. Sunday, December 8, 2013, 7:30pm (VIP Gala at 6:30 pm)

Tickets: $100.50 (VIP), $47.50 – $52.50. Info: 305-673-7300 or FillmoreMB.com

Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th street; Aventura, FL 33180. Friday, December 13, 2013, 7:00 pm. Saturday, December 14, 2013, 7:00 pm. Sunday, December 15, 2013, 3:00 pm. Tickets: $35.00. Info: 954-462-0222 or aventuracenter.org

 Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th Street; Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304. Saturday, December 21, 2013, 7:00 pm. Sunday, December 22, 2013, 3:00 pm. Tickets: $15 to $35.00. Info: 954-462-0222 or ParkerPlayhouse.com

 For info on the Ballet Company: artsballettheatre.org or (305) 948-4777.

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