This Christmas see a world you've never seen before, though you probably have seen it. Witness dolls come to life, a sugar plum fairy in the flesh and a mirlipoo dance in a role you can't even imagine. (Hopefully you read that to yourself in the same voice as the movie trailer guy.)
But seriously, this Christmas, though it's actually five days before Christmas, the Cincinnati Ballet will take to the Aronoff Center stage in The Nutcracker. The holiday classic was reinvisioned in 2011 with new costumes and choreography and has received many rounds of applause. In preparation for the opening, we sat down with corps de ballet member, Joshua Bodden. He has a particularly exciting role ahead of him as one of the lead mirlipoos.
In the traditional version of The Nutcracker mirlipoos don't exist. Rather, it's mirlitons who show up in the more serious second act. When Victoria Morgan (CEO & Artistic Director) choreoraphed the show two years ago, "her toy poodle became the unofficial mascot of the nutcracker," said Bodden and as audiences have seen, made its way into the show as a cross between a poodle and mirliton.
Originally five women performed it in 2011. Last year for a couple of shows Morgan had a wacky idea to make the lead a guy. Cervilio Amadaor (principal) and Rodrigo Almarales (senior soloist) were cast and killed it every time. This year she's decided to make it all men.
Previous year's mirlipoos (Photography: Peter Mueller)
"This divert was one of Victoria's favorite parts to work on and to get the opporunity to dance one of her favorite diverts is a big deal," added Bodden. Moreover, the role is usually danced by an upper classmen so it's an especially nice honor for Bodden. "Ballet in general has a sense of being very stuffy, so when it's time to do the mirlipoo, it's nice comic relief for the audience, and it's fun for me because my job is to make 'em laugh and relax."
Fittingly, it was The Nutcracker that put this 30-year-old on the path to be a dancer at age 10 and brought him to Cincinnati six years ago. "I was working in Miami as a freelancer and had a friend who knew former Assoc. Artistic Direcotr, Devin Carney. At the time Cincinnati Ballet needed men. I came in for The Nutcracker but Victoria was so awesome to offer me a full contract for the 2008/09 season and I've re-engaged every since," said Bodden.
As one of the few shows that is performed for more than a weekend, it runs Dec. 20-29 to be exact, I wondered how the dancers stay energized. "Whether you're a professional ballet dancer or not, everyone knows the story of The Nutcracker. It's a holiday tradition," said Bodden. "You have to make it good because it's everywhere around Christmas. Everyone knows the music and you want people to leave with that same feeling -- the comfort of the holidays."
It helps that there are three to five casts so dancers have a chance to take breaks and switch roles. And even as the dancers are prepping for the opening of The Nutcracker, I learned they are already working on the world premiere of Camelot, which will debut over Valentine's Day Weekend in February.
You can help the ballet celebrate its 50th anniversary season and help yourself soak up a little highbrow culture by seeing The Nutcracker, accompanied with live music by our very own Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra... this Christmas.
Cincinnati Ballet will perform The Nutcracker Dec. 20-29 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. To learn more information or to purchase tickets, visit the website: https://www.cballet.org/50/nutcracker.