story by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
The Nutcracker premiered on Sunday, December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. With a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, debuted on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera, Iolanta. The story of the ballet is adapted from The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman. This timeless classic comes to Boise in December, thanks to the Idaho Regional Ballet.
Tchaikovsky would probably be surprised at how popular The Nutcracker is today in Idaho and throughout the United States. It was the last ballet he composed before his death in November 1893, and he unfortunately never got to see it rise to the heights it has since.
When my daughter was growing up, we had a holiday tradition of seeing The Nutcracker because her friend was a performer. One year her friend was a toy soldier, which gave both girls much cause for celebration. Having a friend in the production is always an extra treat.
Boise and Eagle residents may recognize a cast member or two when the Idaho Regional Ballet (IRB) performs The Nutcracker this holiday season at Boise State University’s Special Events Center. Over 100 cast members will grace the stage between December 12th and December 14th. Benjamin Griffiths and Leta Biasucci, talented and accomplished professionals, will appear with Idaho Regional Ballet courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. Griffiths will portray the Cavalier and Biasucci’s the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Benjamin Griffiths is from Boise, Idaho, where he received his early training with Lisa Moon. After dancing with Boston Ballet, he joined Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2005 as a member of the corps de ballet and was promoted to soloist in 2008. Leta Biasucci is from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and studied under Marcia Dale Weary at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. In 2008, she joined Oregon Ballet Theatre where she performed leading and featured roles in Trey McIntyre’s Speak and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. In 2011, Biasucci joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet and was recently promoted to soloist in September 2014.
Lisa Moon is the choreographer–you can give her credit for staging the ballet performed by the IRB. The Birmingham, Alabama, native received her first training from Stevan and Melanie Grebel. Lisa was a Harkness trainee with David Howard before joining Stars of American Ballet and the Bavarian National Ballet in Munich. During her dance career she worked with renowned artists in Europe and the United States such as Lynn Seymour, Frederic Franklin, John Neumeier, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, and Edward Caton. Lisa has devoted the last thirteen years to teaching students and professionals in the Northwest and choreographed a highly successful adaptation of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web.
Cathy and Jeff Geise are the artistic directors of the IRB as well as co-directors of the Eagle Performing Arts Center. Cathy and Jeff met while both were professional dancers in Zurich, Switzerland. Cathy has been teaching ballet for the past 18 years in both private and public institutions. Prior to opening EPAC in 2004, Jeff directed the Ballet Idaho Academy for five years.
The mission of Idaho Regional Ballet (IRB) is to promote the art of dance and provide excellence in training for its company members, to provide funding and support for these members, to enable performing opportunities that enrich the education of both our dancers and the community, and to provide the opportunity to work with accomlished guest teachers and choreographers.
This December, make plans to see Herr Drosselmeyer, played by Adam Watkins, present Clara, played by Sydney Bantrup, with a nutcracker who will come to life. Visions of sugar plums and whirling dervishes will dance in your head long after you experience IRB’s The Nutcracker.
For more information about the Nutcracker performances this December and to purchase tickets, call (208) 338-4633, or visit www.idahoregionalballet.com.
The Nutcracker will be playing December 12th at 7 P.M., December 13th at 2 P.M. and 7 P.M., and on December 14th at 2 P.M.