Written By | Bianca Theodore
The world looked a lot different in 1995, and so did Atlanta.
The Braves were crowned World Series champions, and were still making homeruns out of Turner Field. The city doubled as a construction site, as Atlanta geared up for its debut on the world stage for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Meanwhile, the Fox Theatre was preparing for a nerve-wracking debut of its own: a brand new version of the classic Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. The show had been a personal gift to the city in 1959, given to the Atlanta Ballet by the New York Ballet co-founder himself, George Balanchine.
This prestigious history loomed over John McFall, the Atlanta Ballet artistic director who dared to adapt the iconic play in 1995. Tensions and expectations ran high, but McFall’s version quickly became a holiday season fixture at the Fox Theatre.
So, as the Fox drew the curtain on McFall’s Nutcracker for the final time this past Thursday, there was not an empty seat in the house. For one more afternoon, men, women, and children alike were whisked away to an enchanted land where toys come alive and nutcracker princes save the day.
The Atlanta Ballet was as graceful as ever, leaping and pirouetting across the stage with the ease of veteran dancers in a seasoned company. Airi Igarashi was enchanting in the lead role of Marya; a dainty ballerina plucked right out of a toy music box, with the likeness of a Disney princess.
Per usual, McFall’s rendition delivered on its diverse choreography styles, and hit every step perfectly. Mikaela Santos and Alexandre Barros captivated the crowd with awing stunts and impossible lifts for the Spanish dance, while Monika Haczkiewicz and Keith Reeves were equally as stunning for the Arabian portion.
The lush harmonies of the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and Georgia Youth Choir were star cast members themselves, and added to the overall magical atmosphere. The elaborate costumes and intricate set design, complete with a 38-foot tree and 20 pounds of snow, completed the fairytale feel in the air.
Two decades and hundreds of shows later, the cast took its final bow to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. In 2018, Atlantans can enjoy a fresh faced version choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, but I have no doubt that The Nutcracker will cast the same enchanting spell it always has.
For as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.