As the all too familiar overture begins to swell, the unfamiliar strips of white light framing the stage glow as the purple curtain rises to reveal a swirling snowstorm projected against a sheer curtain. While the snow whips around the large house set in the background, a white owl flies past. The scene is set for a reimagining of perhaps the most well-known title in ballet, “The Nutcracker.”
Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater will present a new version of “The Nutcracker” with different casts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1-2 and 2 p.m. Dec. 2-3 at the IU Musical Arts Center.
This new production is crafted by Sasha Janes, professor of music in the ballet department. Basing the story more closely on the original short story by E.T.A Hoffmann than most productions, the ballet follows the young Marie, the original main character in the novella, who — with the help of her Aunt Drosselmeyer — goes on a fantastical adventure.
IU junior Indiana Coté dances various roles in the production including snow corps, Spanish dance, Mirliton lead and Louise — the older sister of Marie not commonly seen in most productions. Coté hinted at other differences and surprises audiences may not be expecting.
“The biggest difference is the storyline, it’s definitely not ‘The Nutcracker’ you’re going to be used to,” Coté said.
One difference she shared was the costumes. Janes’ new production uses brand new costumes created by Linda Pisano, IU chair of theatre, drama and contemporary dance. Coté said she was excited for audiences to see the brightly colored costumes, full of their own sparkle and life. With these new costumes being bolder than past productions, Coté and the other dancers practiced to ensuring their performance wasn’t lost to the drama of their costumes.
“You really have to make the most out of your movements,” Coté said. “We’ve been practicing moving slower, more detailed so that the audience can read what we’re doing.”
The production also has an entirely new set by Thaddeus Strassberger, who created the inside of a German embassy with towering white walls decorated with a marble finish. Projections against the walls change the scene and bring magical elements to the production that must be seen to be believed.
The new set also increases the normal stage dimensions from what the dancers would traditionally work with. The wings are replaced by large doors, limiting entrances and exits. IU junior Gabriel Weiner said the towering structures provide a unique challenge.
“You need to find a way to energetically fill up the space on stage,” Weiner said. “It feels like energetic mirrors bounding the energy back towards the audience.”
Assisting in Weiner’s performance energy was knowing how many people had worked on this production — not just all the work Janes had put in to realizing his vision, but also the departments at the Jacobs School that worked tirelessly to help bring it to life.
“Our costume designer and all the work they do in the shop, the set design team, the special effects team, props, I’m looking forward to seeing the combined efforts of seeing all of these different powerful creative people coming together,” Weiner said.
IU freshman Sejal Janaswamy dances different roles in the performance and was enraptured Janaswamy drew on the energy of her fellow dancers, finding the energy unifying.
“We dance together, you feel everyone else’s movements,” Janaswamy said. “It feels more connected, easier in a way.”
With opening night steadily approaching, Janaswamy was excited for audiences to see all their hard work. She said “The Nutcracker” has withstood the test of time because it symbolizes the Christmas season for many.
“It’s like a holiday for ballet, it’s one of those things we repeat every year because it feels like Christmas and makes everyone feel happy,” Janaswamy said.