This weekend, the Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company will present excerpts from holiday favorite “The Nutcracker” alongside original student choreography.
The show, with performances on Friday and Saturday in Yale’s Off-Broadway Theater, will include Nutcracker excerpts such as the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” and the “Waltz of the Flowers,” two popular numbers from the ballet. In addition, the performance will include works of original student choreography set to music and poetry, including songs such as Adele’s “Hello” and poems by Maya Angelou, producer Adriana Rodriguez ’16 said. It will also feature a live orchestra — something the company has done only once before, according to Nicholas Smith ’16, one of the show’s three directors.
“We are trying to address a diverse audience,” Rodriguez said. “Original choreographies vary from classical ballet compositions to modern ones.”
Planning for the production began at the start of fall semester, Smith noted. From its inception, the show was a collaborative effort, cast member Lance Chantiles-Wertz ’19 explained, a member of the cast. Isabella Berglund-Brown ’19, another of the company’s dancers, explained that the group encourages original input from all of its members. Because the YUBC is run entirely by students, Rodriguez and Smith added, company members are deeply involved in all elements of production, including set, light and costume design, as well as practical details like reserving performance spaces.
“One of the things I think is really nice is the fact that making the cast list is really a group effort; anyone can choreograph, anyone can pick a song,” Berglund-Brown said. “It’s a very supportive group.”
Emily Amjad ’19, a YUBC dancer, said that she thinks this level of student involvement fosters an environment distinctly different from other “Nutcracker” renditions she has been involved in. Because of the role students play in planning, choreographing and producing the show, as opposed to being “fed” choreographies by a professor or teacher, the performance is imbued with a uniquely individual aspect, Chantiles-Wertz said.
Smith said that rehearsals for this weekend’s performances typically total about 10 or 15 hours a week, but noted that as the show approaches, members of the cast have begun practicing for up to 30 hours weekly. Members of the orchestra who will play during the show — including musicians from a variety of student groups on campus, including the Yale Symphony Orchestra, Saybrook College Orchestra and Davenport Pops Orchestra — have begun working with the dancers as well, in common rehearsals where both parties can work together and perfect tempos, said musical director Patrida Rangchaikul ’17.
Rangchaikul added that the main reason the YUBC wanted a live orchestra to accompany its performance was the flexibility such an arrangement provides for dancers.
“The tempo of a live orchestra is more flexible,” Rangchaikul explained. “It can accommodate the moves of the dancers better.”
Smith added that because of the nature of the Off-Broadway space, the orchestra will be close to the stage and visible to the audience, which will give the show a more intimate feel than traditional ballet performances, where musicians are typically in an orchestra pit separate from the audience.
The Off-Broadway Theater is located at 41 Broadway.