Princeton University Ballet delivers holiday spirit and innovative choreography to Princeton this week. The one-hour performance is divided into a “sugary” opening half of classical Nutcracker variations and a “spicier” second half of new works. PUB remains true to its reputation of showcasing the most technical dancers on campus, and it succeeds in pushing the envelope with its fresh contemporary choreography.
“Sugar and Spice” opened with Tchaikovsky’s traditional “Snow” variation, with lead dancers Jiae Azad ’15 and Sebastian Gold ’14 joyfully priming us for an evening of wintry delight. After “Snow,” the program continued with several shorter variations, one of which featured freshmen Alex Quetell ’17 and Connor Werth ’17 doing stunning “Russians” at the opening of the piece. Our favorite Nutcracker selection was “Mirlitons,” which boasted grace and delicacy; Caroline Hearst ’14, PUB’s president, was particularly lovely and danced with the air of a seasoned professional. All of the Nutcracker costumes were thoughtfully designed and well-crafted and contributed to the festive atmosphere of Part I.
When the pointe shoes, tiaras and tutus came off, we were better able to appreciate the impressive technical skills and fluidity that distinguish the PUBabes and PUBros. Part II allowed the dancers to engage in a wider range of styles and accompanying emotions. Celina Culver ’15 and Leah Worthington ’15’s “A Night At The Jazz Club” stood out from both the classical selections in Part I and the predictably angsty contemporary pieces that opened Part II. The piece featured four girls and two boys engaging in a charming game of flirtation. The jazzy movement and music combined to create a sultry mood and a cohesive performance piece.
Sophia Andreassi ’16 and Adin Walker ’16’s “Clara” played with rhythm and musicality in its choreography, allowing the dancers to trade in the bourrees and balances for more grounded and organic movement. The piece featured great lighting and costuming and was consistent with the impressive work that this campus has seen from Walker, who is also a member of diSiac Dance Company.
Finally, the spicier half of “Sugar and Spice” concluded with Kamber Hart ’16’s “Feel Again,” which included the PUB company doing what it does best: polished and emotive dancing to an upbeat tune. PUB’s new members (PUBabies!) shined; the piece was even stronger than it looked at Tiger Night during freshman week and was a wonderful finale to this winter show.
Throughout the show, expect PUB’s seasoned dancers to catch your eye as they transition seamlessly from classical to contemporary ballet. All the dancers possess impressive technical ability, but PUB veterans, like Artistic Director Chloe Cheney-Rice ’14, stand out from the corps. Cheney-Rice’s varied movement and facial expressions showed that she understood best the style and meaning of each piece she was in.
Though “Sugar and Spice” was strong, we would have liked to see even more from the boys in the company. We received a small taste of what these men are capable of, but they were confined to partnering the girls far too often. In addition, several pieces lacked the precision characteristic of the rest of the show.
These shortcomings do not undermine the otherwise successful show. “Sugar and Spice” runs only one hour (with no intermission) and will definitely put you in the holiday mood.
4 out of 5 paws
Pros: Strong technique and performance quality from the dancers, great costumes, diversity of moods and styles presented in choreography.
Cons: Men not showcased enough, some pieces less polished than others.