Go Nuts For New ‘Nutcracker On The Hill’

Scientists at Fuller Lodge during ‘Nutcracker on the Hill.’ Photo by Scott Doebling
The Spy (Jonathan Guise) gets away with secret plans. Photo by Scott Doebling
Los Alamos Daily Post

“The Nutcracker” is everywhere. Of course there is the ballet but there also are books, movies and countless merchandise. You hear the “Nutcracker Suite” piped through shopping mall sound systems and see Clara and her Nutcracker Prince everywhere. While this is all a testament to the classic story’s popularity, the bombardment of “The Nutcracker” can dull the story’s magic.

This is why Dance Arts Los Alamos’ production, “Nutcracker on ‘The Hill,’” is so special. The local ballet school has taken an oft-told tale, mixed in some local history and produced something incredibly original.

It all starts with a spy out to swipe Manhattan Project secrets from J. Robert Oppenheimer. Although the secrets are stolen and the spy (Jonathan Guise) is on the loose through the Land of Sweets, Gwen Groves (Ellie Oldham), the Nutcracker Prince (Connor Hoch), Oppenheimer (Jeffrey Favorite) and all their fantastic friends are hot on his trail.

This new plot is not the only twist. The opening act takes place at Fuller Lodge and Tchaikovsky’s music is replaced with big band tunes, performed by a live brass quartet, as well as classic holiday songs. Everyone makes an appearance, from the Ranch School boys to San Ildefonso drummers and dancers who perform the Pueblo’s Winter Buffalo Dance.

The ballet still preserves all the great classic dances, but the epic battle between the toy soldiers and mice features a new jolt of electricity and the Arabian dance is set to different music.

The entire cast proves they are up to the challenge of putting a new spin on a very well-known ballet. As the spy, Guise not only snatches secrets, he also steals scenes with his catlike moves and mischievous acting.

Even more impressive, Guise directed the entire production and choreographed the ballet along with Tina Anderson, Valerie Silks and Gina Fisk.

As the Nutcracker and Gwen, Hoch and Oldham perform an impressive pas de deux, which shows a lot of maturity for such young dancers. Their older counterparts, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier (performed by Melina Burnside and guest artist Bryan Jenkins) are fantastic to watch. The same can be said about all the seniors who perform in the show. Watching all the soloists, I was awestruck by how these high schools students dance like professionals.

The sets and costumes also received a few modifications. The first act features an enormous rendering of Fuller Lodge that is absolutely gorgeous. I love the hot air balloon, the new mode of transportation Gwen and the Nutcracker take to get to the Land of Sweets.

“Nutcracker on ‘The Hill’” will be performed at 7 p.m. today and again at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Duane Smith Auditorium. Go see this show and watch the magic return to “The Nutcracker.”

Gwen Groves (Ellie Oldham) with her nutcracker. Photo by Scott Doebling