The music to the ballet suite "The Nutcracker" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is generally regarded as one of the most brilliant works for orchestra. In the upcoming performance by the IU Ballet Department, however, it is not just the music that will shine, but the array of dance that is meant to accompany the music.
Professor David Effron, who will be conducting the orchestra in the performances, said Tchaikovsky's music in "The Nutcracker" is conducive to ballet for several reasons. First of all, the music has several different moods to match the different characters on stage. Effron said he hopes to bring out the beauty of the score by emphasizing the lyrical moments.
"I want to emphasize the humor and joy of this piece," Effron said.
He said many of the humorous characters have matching passages in the score. Also, the music contains a childlike element that demands a joyful sound.
"The piece's fantasy also demands joy," Effron said. "It is a moment to get away from the realistic world."
Tchaikovsky's score is well-suited to ballet because it has a strong rhythmic element, which is what dance is all about, said Effron, who has conducted symphonies and operas. He explained that ballet is different from either because the tempo needs to be constant and comfortable for the dancers.
"I often conduct for the expression of the moment, but with ballet, you have to discipline yourself to always make the tempo comfortable for the dancers," Effron said.
The dancers rely most heavily on the ballet's choreographer Jacques Cesbron, who has worked on many of IU's operas, ballets and choruses.
Cesbron said he thoroughly enjoys choreography because it takes him to a level beyond teaching. Cesbron's method of choreographing reflects this. He finds his inspiration by watching the dancers in his classes and basing the choreography on how the students themselves dance, rather than directing them.
"It takes creation on its own direction," Cesbron said of this method.
Cesbron said willingness and eagerness are better than simply good form. When the students try things, they often go beyond the original idea and produce something very imaginative, he said.
Cesbron's colleagues, Guest Choreographer Guoping Wang, and Children's Choreographer Doricha Sales and his wife Victoria Cesbron, who handles the more concrete aspects, all helped the dancers perfect their steps. Cesbron said he was indebted to them for their help and support because, as he said, "It is nice to choreograph, but not easy."
As far as "The Nutcracker" itself is concerned, Cesbron stated that the ballet is an important Christmas tradition in the United States, and its performances are usually sold out. His goal, then, is to expand beyond the Christmas mood and make the audience fall in love with ballet as a year-round art.
"This show is more than just 'The Nutcracker.' It is about ballet. I want the audience to love ballet and get into dancing outside of Christmas," Cesbron said.
"Nutcracker" performers said the overall effect of the fusion of Effron's conducting and Cesbron's dance choreography create a stunning work of art. Lauren Collier, whose roles include a mouse and a flower, described Tchaikovsky as a "ballet genius" whose music is enhanced by the dancing on stage. She said dancing to music is "an exhilarating experience."
Senior Joshoa Sutton, who plays the Arabian Prince, the Mouse King and the Moor doll, agreed with Collier.
"Music is indispensable to ballet," he said.
To illustrate his statement, he gave the example of the rehearsal pianist, explaining that the difference in dancing to a good and a bad pianist is very noticeable. With a good pianist, the steps are much easier and expression comes more naturally than with a careless one.
Sutton said dancing to a live orchestra, however, elevates the ballet to a whole new level.
"I love dancing to a live orchestra. There's really no comparison to dancing to live music. It changes the entire atmosphere," he explained.
Both dancers agreed that "The Nutcracker" is a work of art where music and dance work together and mutually enhance one another for a beautiful experience.
"It is a very beautiful production," Cesbron said, "and I expect it to be a success."
-- Contact staff writer Adam Sedia at email@example.com.
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