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Contest: See The Colorado Ballet’s Dreamy “The Nutcracker”

Sink yourself into the glow of a dreamy, witty production of “The Nutcracker.” There is no better way to hit the pause button on a frantic holiday season. Year after year, Colorado families have folded “The Nutcracker” into their traditional celebrations. Why?

The Colorado Ballet breathes fresh, innovative life into Tchaikovsky’s charming Christmas fantasy. These aren’t your kids on their tippy-toes leaping around your living room to “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” As fun as that is, The Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” showcases strong, athletic dancing while remaining lovely, delicate, and enchanting. The choreography is inspired, along with tiny elements of whimsy. A facial expression, a sip from a shimmering champagne flute, or rats performing CPR—The Colorado Ballet has nailed the production from top to bottom.

Seeing “The Nutcracker” live is a sensory experience. You don’t get the same effect from watching it on TV or a DVD. The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, housed at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, is a storied, beautiful venue. From the heavy red velvet curtains to the orchestra pit, experiencing a ballet there feels like a sumptuous treat. The Colorado Ballet orchestra is top-notch as well. The warmth and tone of live music enhances every majestic element on stage. The beauty of ballet isn’t just in the dancing. Music, costuming, and set design are nearly as nimble and enchanting as the dancers themselves.

Dana Benton and Gregory Gonzales by Mike Watson

When you go to The Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” watch for your child’s eyes to light up like the magical Christmas tree. They’ll see a whimsical battle, a flying sleigh, a blizzard of snowflakes, a trove of dancing sweets. They’ll debate whether Clara’s adventure was real or just a dream. They’ll go home wishing for a few things, too:

1. To take ballet lessons, if they don’t already.

2. To have a closet full of eye-popping twirly dresses.

3. To be singled out to receive a magical toy.

4. To fly off to a wonderland of color, flavor, and beauty.

5. To sleep under an enormous, magical Christmas tree.

Parents can feel that way, too. If it were socially acceptable to go to the grocery store encased in 25 yards of glittering violet chiffon and toe shoes, I would. Maybe that’s why, year after year, “The Nutcracker” reigns as one of the more beloved holiday traditions. The Colorado Ballet company’s production charms the child in every harried grown-up.

Take a break. Give yourself a treat. Go.


Could your holiday season use more leaps, twirls, and whimsy? Yes. We are thrilled to extend a chance for our readers to become a child again, for at least two hours. Tutu not included.

To buy tickets, check availability, or for more information on “The Nutcracker” and future productions, visit The Colorado Ballet’s website.

(Photos provided by The Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” copyright Mike Watson)


Enter to win a 2-pack of orchestra level tickets to the Thursday, December 17th, 2015 7:30 pm performance of the Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”. Please, only enter if you can attend this specific performance. A winner will be chosen on December 10th, 2015. You may enter as many as five times.

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    The Colorado Ballet’s “Cinderella” Sweeps Away Winter Blues

    The Colorado Ballet’s “Cinderella” is a vibrant retelling of the beloved fairy tale. I took my seven-year-old daughter to a Saturday matinee. Like many young girls, she’s completely familiar with a certain version featuring sewing birds and mice. I wasn’t sure if the ballet version would capture her attention. Would she be confused or even miffed if the ballet veered away from the bibbity-bobbity-boo rendition?

    There wasn’t a single rodent on stage, and she loved it. So did I.

    The story opens with a family scene. Cinderella, danced by Chandra Kuykendall, is abused by her terrible stepsisters and stepmother as her helpless father looks on. She’s made to toil as the hysterically funny stepsisters (danced by Kevin Hale and Christopher Ellis) tease and haughtily preen and prance. Finally left alone, Cinderella exudes sadness and loneliness as she remembers her late mother. Her father joins her and they dance with a portrait of the mother. It’s a lovely, poignant scene, which sets up the tone for the rest of the performance.

    Throughout “Cinderella,” the story deftly moved from laugh-out-loud comic scenes with the stepsisters and Jester (Francisco Estevez) to tender, exquisitely choreographed pas de deux with Cinderella and the Prince (Domenico Luciano). Watch for their dance in the second act. It’s gorgeous and there were a lot of teary mommies in the audience. I looked around through my own filmy eyes and heard some sniffles in our section of the theater.

    Another high point of the Colorado Ballet’s “Cinderella” was the dancing of the Fairy Godmother (Asuka Sasaki) and her special helpers—dragonflies and four fairies representing the four seasons. This is where the musical score by Prokofiev, set design, and costuming truly shone. The colors were yummy eye candy, the dancing was athletic and whimsical, and I heard the most oohs and aahs from the young audience. Cinderella’s transformation from a poor girl in rags to a shining princess was made complete by a the clever carriage, closing out the first act with style and smarts.

    My daughter adored the slapstick follies of the stepsisters. She’s still talking about how much they made her laugh. Me too. You have to be an excellent dancer to dance as badly as these two. I appreciated that the male dancers appeared to relish playing the stepsisters. It was great fun watching them, especially during the ball scene in the second act. And you’ve never seen anyone try on a glass slipper like the two stepsisters as they try to convince the Prince each is the one he searches for.

    photo by Mike-Watson

    “Cinderella” is divided into three acts with two intermissions. This is ideal for a story that appeals to kids, who can get squirmy. Kids of all ages were at the matinee performance we saw and they did really well. Obviously, the pace, dancing, and story were compelling and attention-grabbing. The only time it seems to slow is during the middle of the second act, when ball guests dance. I found it all lovely, but I think my daughter wanted more Cinderella and more stepsisters. She got them.

    If you decide to take your kids, here are some things to know: The performance is 2 hours and 25 minutes including two intermissions. Snacks and drinks are sold in the lobby during intermissions, along with princess accoutrements like crowns and wands. Ask one of the friendly ushers for booster seats. Older kids who can read will be able to follow the story with captioning which occasionally pops up on the seat in front of you. Kids and parents were dressed in anything from jeans and sweaters to princess gowns. This would be a great “starter” ballet for kids if they’ve never seen a top-drawer professional production.


    The most important thing to know, though, is that “Cinderella” won’t be around for very long. Performances are running through February 23, 2014 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, including weekend matinees. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, visit The Colorado Ballet.

    (all photo credits: Mike Watson for The Colorado Ballet)

    The Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker Enchants All

    A holiday season without The Nutcracker is a few twirls short of magical. Generations have made listening to Tchaikovsky’s familiar suite part of their celebrations. I love how here in Colorado, we have the world-class Colorado Ballet dedicated to performing The Nutcracker for families. Not only can we hear the lovely, poignant, energetic score, we can see it how it was meant to be seen: With wonder, with skill, with love, though dance.

    I was excited to take my ten-year-old son, Joel, to a recent performance at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The Nutcracker has a reputation for being a great mommy-daughter date. Of course, ladies of all ages filled the expansive theater dressed in their holiday best, but there were plenty of guys on hand experience the fun. I think it’s really important to share the arts with our boys. Don’t assume that just because you can’t pincurl their hair they won’t like ballet. Appreciating the art—and athleticism— of ballet can come easily for girls and boys, especially when their first introduction happens to be The Nutcracker.