After nearly three decades at Miami City Ballet, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker demanded a makeover. Costumes and scenery, as artistic director Lourdes Lopez admits, were faded and frayed. To do justice to such a beloved ballet, she has partnered with The Music Center for a new production to debut in Los Angeles this December before brightening South Florida theaters.
Lopez entrusted husband-and-wife artistic team Isabel and Ruben Toledo with bringing The Nutcracker into high definition, drawn by both their sense of classicism and innovative creativity. The Cuban-American couple may work in different media—Isabel is a fashion designer, Ruben as a visual artist—yet as collaborators they flourish in stage work.
The Nutcracker, Isabel discovered, "is multilayered with visual symbols—and peels back like an onion. Each element impacts the entire composition." Her Sugarplum Fairy's silhouette retains a decorous formality with dashes of sparkle. As the designer believes, "fabric brings to the stage yet another performer—the dance of textile."
Scenic impact required meticulous research. Ruben relished not just the history of the ballet but also the qualities of a childhood dream. His favorite part? "The snow scene," he discloses. "Nature can be so awe-inspiring."
Miami inspired Ruben with its "light reflected off the magnificent ocean, the boomerang clouds mounting like palaces." In his vision, candy land is "a tropical paradise" where palm trees rise like confections in a pastry shop.
Enthused by this creative partnership as well as MCB's 2016 reimagining of Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream in an underwater setting, Lopez promises, "This production will be riveting."