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Northern Michigan Dance Academy  ||  Dickinson Ballet Company
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Recent Reviews, Articles, et al.

Local Nutcracker Ballet Excels

By Jim Hogan

       From year to year you wonder if the people of Northern Michigan Dance Academy and its Dickinson Ballet Company can pull it off again. If they can make The Nutcracker measure up to the excellence of previous performances. Well, stop wondering about this year. They’ve done it again and are presenting a gorgeous Christmas gift to the community.
       The ballet’s in Norway again this year at the Fine Arts Center on Fourth Avenue. I like it there. I went to the Preview Performance and immediately confirmed my conviction that this was a good marriage between show and venue. There are impressive amounts of space and flexibility for the dancers, their sets, their props. The lighting is great. The sound is wonderful. The sightlines are terrific. You can see clearly. You can hear clearly. And there’s a roomy and comfortable audience environment.
       As ever, the show itself is wild. I won’t give away the story, but the quickly paced Christmas presentation is a dreamy cartoon – but live! A charming prince and a series of beautiful princesses. Dancing rabbits and rats. A parade of characters from around the world, many quite exotic, hoofing to the fascinating ethnic specialties of delightful dance music. Life-size toy soldiers and ballerinas that march and dance. A gigantic swordfighting nutcracker. Battles! Magic! Love! Good guys! Bad guys! Lovely and regal queens! Fairies! Yes, even a sugar-plum fairy – the name of this year’s is Eleanor Vross and she’ll knock your socks off! The whole show will. It’s thrilling. It’s a diverse and very talented troupe of students and young Ashley DeMay particularly impressed me in the central role as this year’s Clara.
       The costumes for this annual production have a high, well deserved reputation. They live up to it again this year. The variety, the designs, the colors – they’re stunning. They’re spectacular. Props this December – something you didn’t see much of in previous Nutcrackers on other stages – are onstage in 2014 and outstanding. What astonished me again and always seem noticeably improved from year to year are the sets. They’re out of this world. They’re regularly convincing, often gorgeous, sometimes breathtaking. Well done, crew!
       Also, producers-directors Beth Provencher and Kelly Lutey and their bunch deserve great credit for the way they manage Tchaikovsky’s sensational and infectious music. The full orchestral score is professionally performed and recorded, then piped perfectly though the room’s sound system. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear the New York Philharmonic was just out of sight in the pit, playing live. No errors, no distractions. You can concentrate on the action.
       Of course, the dancing is best. The children from the younger grades are great, often amusing. This year, they seem more earnest, disciplined, and self-aware. But what always seizes and enchants me are the beautiful young women in beautiful clothing of different times and places, moving to beautiful music. At once graceful, athletic, and artistic, they captivate and transport us. This Christmas is no different.
       Go. As a reviewer I have no qualms recommending that you gather the family and see The Nutcracker. You’ll be glad. You’ll love it. You’ll feel good. You’ll applaud the efforts of these kids and their instructors. And with glimpses here and there throughout the performance, you’ll understand how and why dance can be challenge, skill, accomplishment, entertainment, and art. The Nutcracker. Music by Tchaikovsky. Dickinson Ballet Company. The Norway Fine Arts Center on Friday at 7:00 p.m., on Saturday at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m., and on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For ticket information, visit http://northernmichigandanceacademy.imeplace.com.

December 17, 2014
Iron Mountain, Michigan

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