WILKES-BARRE — Hey, where’s Drosselmeyer?
Doesn’t Clara need an eccentric uncle/godfather to bring her a special square-jawed soldier? How can you have a Nutcracker ballet without Drosselmeyer?
“Clara has a godmother instead,” choreographer Gina Malsky of West Pittston said with a grin, explaining how she’s introduced some fresh touches to ” ‘The Nutcracker’ with a Touch of Jazz,” which Ballet Theatre of Wilkes-Barre will perform at 3 p.m. Dec. 13 at Downtown Arts in Wilkes-Barre.
Clad in a fur jacket, boots and plenty of bling, including a necklace of Christmas-tree garland, Bridget Giunta Husted of Wyoming will dance the role of Clara’s godmother, a character she describes as someone who doesn’t exude Drosselmeyer’s air of mystery. The godmother simply wants to have a good time.
While the show’s music is recognizable Tchaikovsky, it’s a jazzy version.
And it’s fun, dancers Ainsley Dean of Mountain Top and Abby Lazecki of Old Boston said as they waited to rehearse on a recent Saturday.
The two girls, both 11, said they portray friends of Clara.
“I give her a dress,” Ainsley said.
“I give Clara a crown,” Abby added, explaining yet another girlfriend will present Clara with her most notable gift — the nutcracker.
By the way, this ballet boasts no mischievous brother Fritz ready to break Clara’s new toy. Instead, there’s a younger sister named Frannie and the nutcracker doesn’t break.
Even the traditional battle between mice and toy soldiers has become “more of a dance off,” Malsky said, describing the struggle as “polite and pleasant.”
But the biggest difference between “‘The Nutcracker’ with a Touch of Jazz” and more traditional versions of “The Nutcracker” is the dancing, which has expanded to include tap and modern as well as ballet.
“I feel like I’m a cheetah,” said 11-year-old Ava Rittle, of Sinking Spring, who sports an animal-print leotard and dances a solo to a percussive beat.
Just when you think you’ve spotted an unchanged tradition, such as 17-year-old Kayla Hostetter, of Lancaster, stretching luxuriously in every direction to the strains of the Arabian dance, you’ll see her join hands with Ava and turn a somersault in tandem.
“The Nutcracker” is a wonderful part of the holiday season, Malsky said, but she’s enjoyed giving it some fresh tweaks such as a “waltz of toys” instead of a “waltz of the flowers.”
Likewise, new and fresh last weekend was the backdrop Malsky’s 21-year-old daughter, Anna, finished just in time for a Saturday afternoon rehearsal. The paint was still wet, Anna Malsky noted, but the Victorian living room was ready for Clara’s party.