The Corpus Christi Ballet is beloved for many reasons; however, this time of year, its annual production of The Nutcracker truly becomes a cherished tradition for so many Coastal Bend families. With two weekends of showtimes kicking off on December 9, we sat down with the company’s co-artistic director, Cristina Munro, to find out what audiences can expect from this year’s rendition.
The Bend: For some children, The Nutcracker marks the first introduction to classical ballet. What was your first experience with it?
Cristina Munro: For many children all over the world, The Nutcracker is the first opportunity to dance or act on stage and serves as an introduction to the magical world of live theatre. I grew up in England and at that time few companies, apart from the two major professional ones, presented The Nutcracker. So I did not have the opportunity to dance in it until I joined The English National Ballet as a professional. Since then, I must have danced every adult female role, in hundreds of performances!
TB: As a time-honored tradition during the holiday season, why do you think The Nutcracker resonates with so many?
CM: I think it resonates with so many because The Nutcracker is a live theatre experience the whole family can enjoy together. It is an annual highlight of the holiday season for many families. The story is easy to follow, children are enchanted and adults appreciate the artistry of the cast, the music and the magical experience.
TB: What makes the Corpus Christi Ballet production of The Nutcracker so special? And, should audience members expect any changes to this year’s version?
CM: The Corpus Christi Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is very family-friendly. It has a cast of over 150 dancers and actors and many talented young children, as well as advanced and professional artists. Every year, [the show] is different. Dancers graduate to the next role, some new choreography is added and often new costumes are incorporated. This year, the new choreography to watch for is the Spanish and Russian dances in Act II.
New dancers bring excitement and different qualities to their roles [each year]. For the second weekend, we have a guest artist in the role of the Cavalier to the Sugarplum Fairy. Gustavo Ribeiro is from Brazil and has danced with the Miami City Ballet and has been a guest artist all over the world.
TB: What are the benefits and/or challenges that come along with performing alongside a live orchestra?
CM: It is very exciting for the cast to work with a live orchestra. Our guest conductor Dr. William Reber is a great conductor for ballet. He is sensitive to the tempo the dancers are comfortable with, and the dancers have to adjust to any variation. With the orchestra, the dancers hear some instruments more strongly, or the rhythm and sound of the phrasing sound different. So it’s a mutually respectful relationship, as opposed to recorded music which is always exactly the same.
TB: With so much to look at in this glorious production, it can be difficult to catch all the details. What’s one subtle moment we should watch for?
CM: The Nutcracker combines so much that the audience should just relax and enjoy it. The music is glorious, the feat of four complete set changes is spectacular, lavish costumes and lighting effects are the cherries on top and the excitement of the live performance is just magical.
Any standout performances audience members should be on the lookout for?
The Principal Artists give beautiful, artistic performances, but the whole cast works as a team – from the youngest Flying Cherubs (age 5 and 6), the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer and the whirling snowflakes to the Battle of the Rat King and the Nutcracker himself. And of course, the young girl Clara whose magical dream we follow.