Visions of sugar plums dance in Tahoe
It it’s not necessarily your daughter’s production of “The Nutcracker,” but it well might be your father’s.
“If you look at that way, keeping it exciting and keeping it a little different every scene, if you can keep the fathers happy, that’s good,” executive director and choreographer Lesa Dusich said of the Reno Dance Company’s presentation of the holiday ballet Saturday and Sunday at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Much about “The Nutcracker” defines tradition: Tchaikovsky’s ballet is a family affair during the holidays around the world, and this its second year at Lake Tahoe. And while Dusich and the Reno Dance Company aren’t necessarily trying to defy tradition — Dusich said the production stays completely within the classic story — they’re showing audiences another side.
“There’s not a lot of little kids, like some productions,” she said. “It’s not a recital, so that’s refreshing.”
Instead, the Reno Dance Company’s production consists of 30 dancers: 18 men and 12 women, all from Northern Nevada. The star of the production- Ashley Eisert, playing Clara — is 15 years old, but her castmates are predominantly professional dancers who have performed overseas and come back to the area. Danielle Costa, in her fourth year with the company, plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Christopher Wrede is her counterpart, the Sugar Plum Prince.
“We do have professional dancers right here, which people sometimes don’t take advantage of,” Dusich said.
But the professionals of the Reno Dance Company certainly can take advantage of changes to the presentation. Dusich, who said she grew up in the Boston School of Ballet, choreographed a faster-paced version, packed with movement, range and variety.
“With our guys, we do a lot of lifting, a lot of partnering, a lot of overhead spins, you know that kind of stuff,” she said “You’re not going to see the same kind of partnering and lifts … anywhere else.
“The choreography really varies throughout the production. There’s a lot of different movement throughout the show, so you don’t feel like you’ve seen it all in the first 20 minutes.”
While Dusich characterized Tahoe as the perfect “winter wonderland” for performing “The Hometown Nutcracker,” the venue might not be the first place families look for ballet: This is the second year the company has added the casinos at Lake Tahoe to the schedule, moving to Harrah’s after performing at the MontBleu last year.
“For us, we’re real comfortable with the casino-type show,” Dusich said, pointing out that casinos are home to most of Nevada’s big stages, and that neither they nor the Reno Dance Company are strangers to lavish stage productions.
“It’s crazy. It’s fun. There’s lights everywhere obviously,” said Pedro Rangel, who plays both the Mouse King and the Marzipan lead in the Reno company’s production. “The best thing is being able to be on some casino’s marquee.”
But even with the perhaps nontraditional venue, as well as all the professionalism and pushing of the envelope in choreography, the Reno Dance Company didn’t want to mess too much with a family holiday tradition. In fact, one of Dusich’s goals in choreographing “The Nutcracker” was to make the story easy to follow. While younger audiences have no problem understanding Rangel as the Mouse King, that doesn’t mean they like him:
“I do get that a lot,” he said. “They gasp and say, ‘I don’t like him.’
“Its a wonderful production,” he said. “It’s great for kids. I really wish my parents had taken me to see a ballet production when I was a kid.”
Making the holiday classic understandable for the young patrons while pushing the envelope for more savvy audiences is a challenge. But it’s one Dusich, it appears, has well in hand.
“You’ve got to remember, more and more people see it every year on TV, so they get bored easier,” Dusich said. “Some people are only ever going to see ‘The Nutcracker,’ so it better be good.”
‘The Hometown Nutcracker’
The Reno Dance Company presents “The Nutcracker,”
When: 7 p.m. Saturday Dec. 27, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28
Where: South Shore Room, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
Tickets: $21.75 to $36.75: ticketsus.at/Tribune