My first time ever seeing “The Nutcracker” was actually the performance by the State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine at the Luhrs Performing Art Center in Nov. 2022. I initially went for the sake of getting photos, but found myself enraptured by the magic of the dancing and music. I’m always impressed when stories can be told only through the visuals and body movement rather than spoken dialogue. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see this troupe would be returning once again and they haven’t skipped a beat.
“The Nutcracker” once again dazzles at Luhrs and the Theatre of Ukraine is still the best production I’ve seen of this ballet thus far. Despite a delayed start, the performance was more than worth the wait and this year even had a few surprises along the way.
The biggest surprise was the inclusion of local young dancers during the performance. Several performers from Dance Academy XIV took to the stage alongside the Ukrainian troupe to perform during multiple numbers. Whether as sugarplum fairies or angels, the crowd in attendance ate it up and they received some of the loudest applause.
Another surprise was the updated sets and costumes for this year’s production. The most noticeable was the rat army and the Rat King. Last year, the rats were simple stuff head dresses, which did allow for the dancers’ faces to be visible, but admittedly looked a little silly. That was rectified with more of an overhead mask, one that looks far more intimidating under the darker lighting. I will say though the Nutcracker mask was genuinely nightmarish. I kind of wish they had kept the COVID style mask from last year.
Of course, the dancing was “on point”. This year in between snapping photos I really took the time to admire the physical aspect of ballet. The core strength, the flexibility, the endurance and so much more that you simply have to applaud everyone on stage for pure commitment alone.
It’s sad that with this being my final year at Shippensburg University I may never get to see this performance again. Thankfully, the State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine will return to the Luhrs Performing Arts Center with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on Jan. 18, 2024.