FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Emily Diehl, center, is assisted by Mairi Bell during a quick change at the dress rehearsal of Hawaii State Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker."
A staple of the holiday season
It is a tradition this time of year, as much a part of the holiday season as sipping eggnog, buying gifts and getting together with family.
A Hawaii State Ballet production
» Place: Mamiya Theatre, St. Louis School, 3142 Waialae Ave.
» Time: 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 16 and 17; and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Dec. 17 and 18
» Tickets: $16, $20 and $24, with a $2 discount for seniors, military and children under 12
» Call: 947-2755 or 783-2747
It's taking in a production of the "The Nutcracker."
While there are many different presentations of the ballet going on around town, those with young children might favor Hawaii State Ballet's version.
Under the direction of former artistic director John Landovsky and accompanied by Peter Tchaikovsky's original musical arrangement, 20 HSB students will display the technical dance skills that they have learned. All the roles are danced by the young children and teens from the school's dance classes and its pre-professional junior company, save for a party scene, where adults are the extras.
Mairi Bell, 16, is one of three dancers (the others are Joanna Lam and Lisa Awaya) who will share the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Other lead roles include Bradley Wong and Dan Sato as the cavalier, and Awaya and Erica Wong as the Snow Queen. Bell, Wong, and Marcie Kamei also will share the role of Clara, the 12-year-old who receives the nutcracker for Christmas.
Bell first played Clara as a 10-year-old and has also danced in the Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabian dream sequences. She, like previous dancers, had to learn all the parts in the ballet to take on the more advanced role of Sugar Plum Fairy, who performs a pas de deux with the cavalier in the finale.
"Every year is a challenge," said Bell of performing in such a beloved ballet. "If you're doing a role, you want it to be perfect, and there's always something more to learn. ... Dancing is a challenge; while you do a lot of performances, it is never the same."
Take, for instance, the role of Clara. "Last year, it was reworked so an older dancer could play the role. You have to be (convincing) playing the part of a 12-year-old."
THE TWO consecutive weekends the dancers will perform "The Nutcracker" are just one result of the year-round training that goes on at the school, known for its classical ballet program. Advanced dancers train four to five hours, six days a week, with many of the performers going on to professional dance careers with such companies as the San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet.
At age 12, Bell became a member of the junior company. Like one of the school's most well-known graduate, Amanda Schull of "Center Stage" movie fame, Bell also wants to become part of a professional dance company.
"A lot of 'Nutcracker' performances bring in professional dancers from the mainland, but (Landovsky) doesn't bring in any professionals," Bell said. "It's all young dancers in the lead roles. It's good preparation for being in a professional company."
HSB follows the traditional story line in which a young Clara Stahlbaum receives a nutcracker for Christmas from her inventor grandfather, much to the dismay of her jealous brother Fritz. After she falls asleep under the tree, Clara's dreams take her and the nutcracker away to imaginary lands.
The school's version of the ballet "is not a vehicle for experimentation," said Chris Weger, a parent volunteer whose daughter, Emily, is a dancer in the ballet. "The idea is to show the solid training in classical ballet."
THREE OTHER dance companies are also presenting "Nutcracker" productions this holiday season. While HSB's version sticks closely to the original story based on E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice," others such as the Honolulu Dance Theatre give the presentation a unique twist.
Here's a list of the other "Nutcracker" productions in town.
» Ballet Hawaii: 8 p.m. Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. Tickets are $25, $40 and $60. The $150 opening night gala includes a pre-show dinner, reserved parking and Golden Circle seating. Call (877) 750-4400 or 521-8600.
Ballet Hawaii's glitzy version, as staged by artistic director Pamela Taylor-Tongg, also sticks close to the original Nutcracker ballet, but famed designer Anne Namba takes plenty of chances with her creative costuming. A new set was designed this year by Peter Dean Beck. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz star as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the cavalier, respectively.
» Honolulu Dance Theatre: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17, and 2 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18 at the Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College, 45-720 Keaahala Road, Kaneohe. Tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for seniors and military and $18 for children 12 and under. Call 235-7433.
King Kalakaua and Princess Kaiulani star in this "Hawaiian Nutcracker Ballet." The company spices up the classical ballet with a bit of modern dance and hula.
» Hawaii Ballet Theatre: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 18 at the Leeward Community College Theatre, 96-045 Ala Ike, Pearl City. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children, military and seniors. Special admission price of $12 for students at the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 show. Call 456-8100. Watch the Nutcracker do battle with the Mouse King (and Fritz) in Hawaii Ballet Theatre's version.