By William Ryan–
This past weekend played host to the University of Louisville Dance Academy’s annual production of “Clara’s Dream,” an adaptation of the classic 1892 ballet “The Nutcracker.” Featuring a wide variety of dancers, ages 6-27, this stripped-down performance eliminates all of the unnecessary plot elements that bogged down the original narrative. This adaptation creates a purely simplistic, surrealistic storyline that, according to co-director Cynthia Bronner, is “perfect for younger audiences or for the sleep-deprived college student just before finals.”
The co-directors, Cynthia Bronner and Chuck Bronson, have been producing “Clara’s Dream” every year since 1996. They never require auditions in an attempt to provide both an educational experience to all of the dancers and an accurate cross-section of the dance academy’s talent. “Some people want to see the cute kids dance, whereas other people want to see the more technically-advanced dancers,” says Bronner, “so there’s something different for everyone.”
In addition to the dancing, every other year that this ballet is performed features the University of Louisville Symphonic Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s original score. This was one of the off years, so next year the audience will be able to witness a completely live production, of which each movement will be known to the average student as “that one song that gets played in every Christmas movie.”
“Clara’s Dream” takes the audience through many different dance styles, including Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabian influenced movements, each based on the original choreography by Marius Petipa. “I loved the multi-cultural experience,” recalled audience member John Cerjack, a senior at Trinity High School, “it was great how the subtle differences in the dancing and the music could create a whole new scene.”
Esther Murphy, a 12 year veteran of the U of L Dance Academy, pointed out that it was not just the dancers and crew members who put in the long hours. “The parents helped us out a lot,” she explained, “the show couldn’t have happened without them.” Murphy, a senior at DuPont Manual High School, was featured as a soloist, performing the Arabian portion of the ballet without any backup dancers.
“Ballet can be very user-friendly if you choose the right ballet,” says co-director Bronner, “and “Clara’s Dream” is perfect for people who don’t know much about ballet.” Also, UofL’s production has low admission costs, creating a wonderful experience for college students who can’t afford the Louisville Ballet’s steep prices.
This year’s performances are over, but “Clara’s Dream” will be back next winter. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children and senior citizens. The Dance Academy also performs other ballets in March and in May, including extravagant shows at the Iroquois Amphitheater, so there are plenty of opportunities to see U of L’s dancers in action.
Photo by Judith Hake