Story by Lindsey Chester and photos by Casey Toth.
Cary, NC- The International Ballet Academy performed their Holiday Suite this past weekend at Cary Academy. It was hard to believe the dancers were in middle and high school.
The program included three parts. Ramonda, originally choreographed by Nureyev, a modern piece titled A New Limit created by local student Ricky Flagg and the company’s interpretation of perennial classic, The Nutcracker.
Ramonda is a ballet that showcases the talents of a studio with many solos and partner dances. International Ballet Company (IBA) opened with their strength- Partnering. The intensity with which these dancers performed was breath taking. Spins and lifts that audiences rarely see except on the professional stage, were executed here by students as young as sixteen.
The modern interlude included captivating music and simple costumes in a real departure from the formal dance of Ramonda.
After a brief intermission the stage was transformed into the opening Christmas party scene from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Parents were recruited to play the adults in the scene where presents are exchanged at the holiday party. Two parents in particular stole the show with their comic antics as elderly aunt and uncle. Costumes here were excellent and the sprite who played Fritz (Ryland Acree III) was outstanding as the brother who teases Clara played that night by Athena Kuang.
This adaptation eliminated some familiar characters. The Mouse King’s scene in which he threatens Clara and fights the Nutcracker was deleted. Oddly, the uncle Drosselmeyer character was also eliminated in favor of the father giving Clara the nutcracker toy. No dancer performed the actual role of the Nutcracker come to life.
Compared to other productions of The Nutcracker, this was a much simpler set up, but the dancing was no less impressive. There is no flying bed, and Clara does not watch the dancers from a perch above the action. In fact, Clara was not even in the second act.
Several highlights included the substitution of Harlequin puppets dressed in black and white, and a beautiful doll that dances out of a box instead of the soldier piece.
Another short intermission and then little angels began to line up beside the stage. This was the only evidence of truly tiny tots in the winter recital. They were given appropriately darling parts to play. Walking up from the audience they skittered across stage and opened the curtain to the transformed scene of the Land of Sweets.
Favorites included a humorous turn for the “Tea” dance, where three dancers playfully romped in Chinese costume. “Arabian” sometimes referred to as “Coffee” was mesmerizing as Nikki Fanney partnered with Preston Chamblee in exotic dress. A chorus of dancers completed the exotic segment.
Waltz of the Flowers was a gorgeous tour de force as were the Snow Corps. But by far the most fantastic were the four dances performed that night by Regan Kucera and Paul Branco as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. These closed the show and brought the house to its feet. The audience gasped every time the Sugar Plum spun and jumped to land on her Cavalier’s shoulder.
In one short year the International Ballet Academy has managed to attract the attention of a national audience. This year’s production was an expansion of the program presented last year during the holidays at NC State. Their program continues to grow in an area known for dance.