Columbia Dance’s presentation of scenes from Swan Lake was such a hit last year at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert that they have been invited for a return engagement. This time the lithe and elegant dancers will do selections from Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet “The Nutcracker.”
“The dancers are absolutely thrilled to dance with the orchestra,” said Becky Moore, the company’s artistic director. “The girls talk so fondly about their experience last year. They had never danced before with live music. They get a bit teary eyed and quite overwhelmed with that feeling of dancing to live accompaniment. They just can’t wait to do it again.”
Moore will bring 22 dancers, but they won’t all be on the stage at the same time together. There just isn’t enough room. That’s because they only have an 8-by-40-foot area in front of the musicians to move.
“You have to deal with tutus,” Moore said, “which are gorgeous costumes, but a tutu makes you twice as big as you are in real life. We don’t want to kick someone’s bow during the middle of a scene. So, we have adjusted the choreography to make everything work.”
Moore’s creative approach will allow the dancers to perform six parts of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. They are the Sugar Plum variation, the Russian, Arabian, and Chinese divertissements, the Dance of the Reed Flutes, and the Waltz of the Flowers.
“The Waltz of the Flowers will be the number with the most dancers on stage,” Moore said. “We will have nine girls on stage. Normally we would have a few more.”
Moore knows a thing or two about dance. She started lessons when she was 5 years old, training in California with Laguna Ballet and Contra Costa Ballet. After she graduated from Indiana University with degrees in ballet and business, she danced professionally with Cincinnati Ballet and Washington Ballet in Washington, D.C. At Washington Ballet, she also ran rehearsals for students and became the ballet mistress. Before coming to Vancouver, Moore was the artistic coordinator for Marin Ballet in the San Francisco area.
In regards to “The Nutcracker,” Moore knows it inside and out.
“I’ve danced in The Nutcracker for 22 years,” Moore said. “When I danced professionally, we did 32 Nutcracker shows a year.”
For anyone who wants more, Columbia Dance will present a full-length Nutcracker at the Royal Durst Theatre from Dec. 20 to 23.
In addition to the dancers, the orchestra will accompany soprano Charlotte Pistor in a few seasonal selections. Pistor grew up in Oregon and received her musical training at the University of Oregon. She lives in Salzburg, Austria, where she is the soloist at the Salzburg Cathedral and performs in operettas. In 2008, she sang Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
For the holiday concert, Pistor will sing the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria.” In this carol, French Romantic composer Charles Gounod superimposed a melody over the Prelude No. 1 from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.”
Pistor will also sing “Gesu Bambino,” which was written by Pietro Yon, an Italian composer and organist who made his career in New York City. You will recognize that the refrain has the same melody and lyrics as “Adeste Fideles” (“O Come All Ye Faithful”).
The concert wouldn’t be complete without Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night.”
“I’ve performed ‘O Holy Night’ at the Salzburg Cathedral every year for the past 26 years,” Pistor said. “After the VSO concert, I will return to Salzburg to do it again.”
The orchestra, under music director Salvador Brotons, will play several orchestra-only pieces, kicking things off with the overture to Gioacchino Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra” (“The Thieving Magpie”). While the opera itself is rarely performed, the delightful overture has been used in countless commercials and movies such as Stanley Kubrik’s “A Clockwork Orange.”
The concert features two popular waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr.: “Vienna Blood” and “The Blue Danube.” The musicians will also perform “Around the World at Christmas Time” by Bruce Chase. It is an arrangement of Christmas carols, including “O Tannenbaum,” “Infant Holy Infant Lowly,” “What Child Is This?,” “O Sanctissima,” “The Hanukkah Song,” “Whence Comes This Rush of Wings,” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”
Last but not least, be prepared to clear your throats in case there is an encore.