The Yorkville Nutcracker at the Kaye Theater
Blend of Beauty & Grace at an Enthralling Pace
I just returned from a magical trip into an imaginary wonderland of dance. There’s an afterglow one gets from performances such as this, which challenge a writer’s ability to convey the feeling, that’s nearly indescribable, along the lines of love …
But that said I’ll give it a try. And if not successful, you'll get a second chance as I captured some of the performance on video. And given that a picture says a thousand words, then video must be good for at least as many words.
It was a near balmy evening as I made my way to the Kaye Theater on 68th Street between Park and Lex on the Upper East Side. The Yorkville Nutcracker was to begin at 7 pm and I arrived with just enough time to pick up my ticket and make my way up to the balcony. The Kaye Theater is fairly spacious theater (in as far as Manhattan theaters go) and well kept, seating well over 500 people for each performance.
It wasn’t long before the lights dimmed, and the curtain rose, and the performance of The Yorkville Nutcracker at the Kaye Theater on the Upper East Side began.
The Yorkville Nutcracker at the Kaye Theater
Blend of Beauty & Grace at an Enthralling Pace
The Yorkville Nutcracker is a one of a kind creation that fuses history, literature and fashion into a splendid evening of dance performance.
Creator Francis Patrelle imagined and then wove several unique worlds into an evening of sensory - and at times sensual - enchantment. In The Yorkville Nutcracker we are taken on a journey into the past … in old New York … beginning in the Yorkville neighborhood of the Upper East Side … at Gracie Mansion.
The Yorkville Nutcracker - One of a Kind
Given its name, it should come as no surprise that The Yorkville Nutcracker begins the evening at historic Gracie Mansion, in Yorkville. We are whisked back in time to 1895, to the near pastoral outskirts of New York City and into the Mayor’s Home at Gracie Mansion. The Mayor and his family are enjoying the magic of Christmas eve, and the family is happily communing with each other just before their friends and international guests arrive.
The Yorkville Nutcracker set designer captures the historic setting through the use of illustrated screens which with dexterous lighting, beautiful classical music, a sparing & judicious use of props and tailored costumes, is worthy of a Broadway Play. The Costume Designer also played an important role in bringing the past back to life by creating a wardrobe of wonders that captures the traditional dress of the international guests and the studied comportment of the hosts.
Yorkville Nutcracker @ Kaye Theater - Upper East Side
Thus we were treated to a visual feast which continues as the evening progresses. The sets, lighting and costumes all evoke a nostalgic time and an imaginary world of literary proportions where people dressed with decorum, instead of total comfort. The Yorkville Nutcracker allows us to forsake the present and escape into the past, leaving behind our televisions, radios, cell phones, ipads, texts and social media. And in its stead we arrive in time to witness live, real-time, social interactions between young and old alike.
The two main characters, around which the ballet revolves, are the son and daughter of the Mayor. The first segment of the ballet taps into the elegance of Tchaikovsky’s musical creations as we watch in wonderment as the esteemed international guests are greeted by the Mayor and his family and friends at Gracie Mansion. It’s an enchanting evening of old-fashioned fun and dance, before the party winds down and the children doze off.
Francis Patrelle Choreographs a Tale of Beauty, Fashion & Movement
In a dream-like state, we join the children as they awake from their slumber and embark on a nocturnal voyage. I found this part of The Yorkville Nutcracker allusive in some measure to the dreamlike journeys of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and to the Oz-like voyage of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. But there were plenty of differences as the children’s journey is generally devoid of the ongoing angst and drama of old Ebenezer’s nightmare, and Dorothy’s adventurous slumber. But first the children must vanquish the warring mice.
A Ballet that Weaves NYC History, Classical Literature & Film
The first stop is the skating rink in ye olde Central Park, looking west to the newly erected Dakota on the Upper West Side [see Park Avenue Tree Lighting story for a brief history of the origins of the Dakota]. In this segment of The Yorkville Nutcracker, the performers unfurl the sails in their feet and take to the air in a heavenly dance that only angels could hope to join.
This part of the ballet begins with an airy performance by the Snow King and Queen, followed by a dance by the Snow Prince. For those who enjoy the fine art of ballet, this piece is a joy to watch. The Snow Queen’s limbs precisely execute the well choreographed interplay of the beautiful Queen and her stately mate. The Snow Prince performs a solo, who like his Snow Queen Mother, seems to enjoy flying more than walking. The Skaters conclude this segment of the program, gliding along the ice in Central Park in a time long gone.
A Cast of Professional Dancers & Enthusiasts give a Soaring Performance
The next leg of this late night journey takes us to the New York Botanical Gardens Conservatory. At the New York Botanical Gardens, Francis Patrelle choreographs a medley of international fun and frivolity worthy of the Christmas Carol entitled The Twelve Days of Christmas. There wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree, nor five golden rings, but I could make a casefor allegorical references to maids a milking, ladies dancing and lords a leaping … and given this segment of the performance took place at the New York Botanical Gardens I might even make the case for calling birds.
The children begin this piece of the dance with the Angel Corps. Their innocence and youth and cherubic qualities were highlighted in this part of the dance.
Francis Patrelle - A Nutcracker Creator & at his Core ... a Teacher
Francis Patrelle created a rich historic and literary mosaic, in this winding, frolicking choreographed fairytale. From its historic start at Gracie Mansion in Yorkville, the adventure leads to other parts of ye olde Manhattan and the Bronx. Patrelle draws from, and transforms, several of the great theatrical works of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Yorkville Nutcracker is a rich, choreographed tapestry of a fairytale using time tested techniques to take the audience back into an idealized past. The Yorkville Nutcracker is, in essence, an ultimately escapist work of art that allows its witnesses to frictionlessly travel with angels back into time and through space.
The Yorkville Nutcracker includes a cast of dozens, and Patrelle seems to have worked with each to ensure they know their role and play their part. The key roles are played by professional dancers and some of Patrelle’s top students. The professional dancers come from around the nation, and from around the world.
Dances Patrelle - Yorkville Nutcracker @ Kaye Theater Video Transcript
I could take you through the rest of the performance, but at this point I believe you would be best served by watching the dancers yourself. The Spanish Divertissement begins 7 minutes into the video. They are followed by a sensual interplay between the two dancers in the Arabian Divertissement beginning 8 minutes into the video. Then 10.45 minutes into the video we see a short vignette by the Marzipan Divertissement and at 11 minutes into the video we’re treated to vignettes from the Flower Corps de Ballet. We see the Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier 13.5 minutes into the video and the cast, applause and ending begin 14.5 minutes into the video. Aby Stafford dances the Sugar Plumb and Adrien Danchig-Waring portrays her Cavalier both of New York City Ballet [NYCB].
It was the end of a wonderful wayfaring voyage into the past and into the heavens. The entire production was a kaleidoscope of color and choreography ... an allegorical, acoustical journey into New York history ... a festive two hour vacation that hit all the senses without using a single digital screen.
Bravo Francis Patrelle and Dances Patrelle. The Yorkville Nutcracker which is now in its 20th year and will surely return on the second weekend of next December.
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