Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ballerina comes out of retirement to dance as Sugar Plum Fairy

Ballerina Kirsten Bloom-Allen danced with the Sacramento Ballet from 1995 until her retirement four years ago.
She began her professional career as a ballerina at age 17 — a career that spanned 19 years.
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Kirsten retired to begin a new phase of her life. She was three months pregnant when she danced her last ballet — Sleeping Beauty.
Kirsten told me in an interview that being with child, she “could not focus her energy on anything else.” Her yet-to-be-born son was “all that mattered.”
She quickly fell into the role of being a mom. Kirsten said that being a ballerina and being a mother are very similar. “As an artist on stage, it's all about giving. You're giving every bit of your heart, your energy, your soul out there on stage, and it is the same way as a mom,” she said.
Sacramento Ballet's Artistic Directors Ron Cunningham and Carrine Binda maintained contact with Kirsten, a dancer they had grown to love. The feeling was mutual. Kirsten said that she wanted to do something special for Carrine's 25th anniversary with the Sacramento Ballet. She said Carrine asked her to dance in this year's "The Nutcracker."
Kirsten agreed and began training in a ballet studio in San Diego where she resides with her husband and two boys. She trained about two hours a day, four to five days a week to prepare for her role as Sugar Plum Fairy while maintaining her primary role as mother to her boys, one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half years old.
The Sacramento Ballet was excited and Kirsten Bloom-Allen was scheduled to dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy at the Dec. 22nd evening performance at the Sacramento Community Center Theater.
Little did Kirsten know that she would journey to Sacramento a week earlier to dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in three additional shows.
But an unfortunate turn of events had the retired dancer on a plane from San Diego to Sacramento on Friday the 13th to perform on the 14th and 15th before hopping back on the plane for the flight back home.
Alexandria Cunningham, a principal dancer scheduled to dance eight of the 13 shows as the Sugar Plum Fairy, was nursing a knee injury when she performed on opening night which I reviewed. She also danced the following day. But upon consulting with doctors who determined her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was severely torn, Alexandria was advised to step out of the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a very technical routine, because it put too much stress on her knee.
Cunningham, a very accomplished dancer, had been anticipating knee surgery. During intermission at the Sunday matinee, I spoke with her about the unfortunate consequences of her injury. Still upbeat, she said, “It is what it is.”
Watching Kirsten perform at the Sunday matinee was — in a word — breathtaking! She danced as though she had never been off for a day.
I asked Kirsten if she questioned what she was doing when she boarded the plane. She said, “I definitely felt a bit of nervousness, I guess. I thought, well it's been four years. I've put in the work. I've put in the training, but I'm older now. How am I going to physically hold up?”
Kirsten went onto describe what it was like on stage for the first time in four years. “Once I got on stage, you just get so into the moment. And I had such an amazing partner, Stefan Calka. The music just takes over your body and in a way, it was sort of an out of body experience.”
She continued, “I had a little fear of whether I had the endurance, but when it was all over, I did it! My fear was all for naught.”
The beauty and elegance of Kirsten Bloom-Allen once again graced the stage with the Sacramento Ballet once.
My wife, my daughter who had sat in my lap 16 years earlier at age five and watched Kirsten dance, and my 18 month-old grand daughter were all a part of the audience Sunday that witnessed the beauty and magic of the Sacramento Ballet's performance of “The Nutcracker” and Kirsten as she danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
It was evident that Kirsten was experiencing that "magical" feeling she described you get as a ballerina and as a mom.
The cast received a lengthy, well-deserved standing ovation.
There are five remaining performances. Kirsten will return for a performance on Dec. 22 and along with her the confidence and ability which was never really absent.
There are only five shows remaining. Get your tickets before they sell out! Roles change from show to show but with the versatile talent of Sacramento's own world-class Ballet, every show will be awesome. Don't miss this show!
Tickets for all shows can be purchased online or at the Ballet box office.
Performance dates with live music:
December 20, 7:00pm
December 23, 1:00pm
Performance dates to recorded music:
December 21, 2:00pm
December 22, 1:00pm
December 22, 5:30pm —ADDED BONUS: Kirsten Bloom performs as the Sugar Plum Fairy


Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Sacramento Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' was on pointe opening night

“The Nutcracker,” the popular ballet set to music composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, opened in at the Community Center Theater, Sat., Dec. 7, with an afternoon matinee followed by an evening show.
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For the 26th season, under gifted Ron Cunningham and Carinee Binda’s direction, the world-class Sacramento Ballet began its holiday run of the spectacular Christmas time show. The talented group of dancers from all parts of the world including Japan, Australia, and England played to a house packed with all ages.
The evening performance was the first of five shows set to live music performed by the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra with Henrik Jul Hansen conducting.
One of the highlights of the evening was seeing artistic director Ron Cunningham take on the role of Dr. Drosselmeyer. Seventy-four year old Cunningham who was once the principal dancer for the Boston Ballet, moved about the stage in the non-dancing character with plenty of spring in his step. The brilliant choreographer sharing the stage with his ballerina daughter, Alexandria Cunningham was a real crowd pleaser.
Mr. Cunninham’s extraordinary storytelling and his choreography combined with breathtaking scenery set the tone for holiday spirit for this magical time of the year.
Alex Stewart, the Nutcracker who transforms into the triumphant Toy Soldier and then into a Prince, was applauded not only for his character (Who doesn’t want to see a Prince capture a young girl’s heart?) but also his superb dancing.
The battle between the Nutcracker turned Toy Soldier and the Mouse King ended hilariously with the defeated Mouse King making the sign of the cross and giving a little bye-bye before falling to the ground.
Rising star Lauryn Winterhalder lit up the stage in the Snowflake Forest scene.
Winterhalder shared the stage as the Snow Queen with veteran Stefan Calka, the Snow King. The versatile young dancer’s snow queen performance proved her ability to dance classical ballet in perfect form while her Arabian role was indicative of an artist who dances with their body and soul.
Winterhalder's style is reminiscent of veteran dancer Isha Llyod’s. Her dance is nothing short of exquisite.
Lauren Breen showed great enthusiasm in her unforgettable performance as the Spanish dancer; surrounded by four male dancers, she handled the fan like a flamenco dancer while performing the complex routine.
Ginger haired, always smiling Sarah Britton Hicks evidenced some of her early gymnastics training as the Candy Cane. Hicks accomplished gravity defying leaps while jumping through her prop – a hula hoop.
Christopher Nachtrab, the veteran dancer that spells ballet F-U-N, danced the Russian role as he catapulted his muscular frame high above the stage and down again slapping the stage over and over at neck-breaking speed. Nachtrab, who was also the Grandfather in Act I, dances great even when he dances poorly!
Of course, veterans Alexandra Cunningham and Richard Porter moved with ease, grace, and beauty as they danced the grand pas de deux. In spite of Miss Cunningham’s confirmed knee injury, her role as Sugar Plum Fairy was flawless, and watching long limbed Porter leap across the stage left the audience breathless.
The performance received a standing ovation and the cast took three well deserved bows. I give it five stars.
There are only 10 shows remaining. Get your tickets before they sell out! Roles change from show to show but with the versatile talent of Sacramento's own world-class Ballet, every show will be awesome. Don't miss this show!
Tickets for all shows can be purchased online or at the Ballet box office.
Performance dates with live music:
December 15, 1:00pm
December 20, 7:00pm
December 23, 1:00pm
Performance dates to recorded music:
December 13, 7:00pm
December 14, 2:00pm
December 14, 7:00pm
December 15, 5:30pm
December 21, 2:00pm
December 22, 1:00pm
December 22, 5:30pm —ADDED BONUS: Kirsten Bloom comes out of retirement for this one and only performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy
Alexandra Cunningham as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Richard Porter as her Cavalier.
Alexandra Cunningham as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Richard Porter as her Cavalier.
The Prince (Alex Stewart) and Clara (Carly Stewart) sail away in a balloon.
The Prince (Alex Stewart) and Clara (Carly Stewart) sail away in a balloon.
These mice aren t jumping for joy - their mouse King is dead.
These mice aren't jumping for joy - their mouse King is dead.
Grandma (Sarah Britton Hicks) yawns as the night wears on.
Grandma (Sarah Britton Hicks) yawns as the night wears on.
The Christmas party begins.
The Christmas party begins.
The Soldier (Rex Wheeler) and Vivandiere (Karina Hagemeyer) are all wound up.
The Soldier (Rex Wheeler) and Vivandiere (Karina Hagemeyer) are all wound up.