Boston Ballet presents “[email protected]: The Gift,” a one-hour long program featuring new works choreographed by Boston Ballet Company dancers Paul Craig, Chyrstyn Fentroy, John Lam, Haley Schwan, My’Kal Stromile, Gabriel Lorena (Boston Ballet II) and Arianna Hughlett (post graduate), set to Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite.” The classical grand pas de deux in Act II from Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker,” performed by Principal Dancers Viktorina Kapitonova and Tigran Mkrtchyan, to Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music, enhances the program. “The Gift” will premiere at on Thursday, Dec. 17, and will be available until Dec. 27. Subscribers will receive a streaming link prior to the premiere.
“This program is nothing like our traditional ‘Nutcracker,’ and unlike anything we have ever performed. Duke Ellington’s score adds a delightfully jazzy touch to the classical music we know and love,” said Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. “Paired with choreography from seven of our dancers, it will be a unique and fun way to celebrate the holiday season.”
Duke Ellington’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’ is a jazz interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s score of ‘The Nutcracker.’ Arranged in 1960 by Ellington and his frequent collaborator Billy Strayhorn, their rendition features nine movements. Ellington (1899–1974) is considered the greatest jazz composer and bandleader of his time. He led his band for more than 50 years, composed thousands of scores, and created one of the most distinctive ensemble sounds in Western music. Boston’s own jazz aficionado Eric Jackson, from GBH, will introduce Ellington and the toe tapping score.
“I consider Ellington to be simply one of the most important and iconic American musical voices,” said Boston Ballet Music Director Mischa Santora. “I think it’s fantastic we’re adding this really fun, sophisticated, and intriguing twist to our holiday season with his music, and I can’t wait to see the choreography the dancers come up with.”
Choreographer and Principal Dancer Paul Craig said, “Hearing Ellington and Strayhorn’s reworking of familiar melodies made reimagining ‘Nutcracker’ choreography so much fun. It has been amazing getting to choreograph on and with my pod of dancers. After being quarantined for almost six months, it really is a gift to all of us.”
Choreographer and Soloist Chyrstyn Fentroy said, “Creating a section for The Gift has been a unique holiday-themed choreographic adventure. As a choreographer for this project, the familiarity of the score gives you a sense of comfort, but the subtle differences between this version and the original Tchaikovsky score allowed me to challenge myself to think outside of the ‘Nutcracker’ box and create something completely different and new.”
Choreographer and Principal Dancer John Lam said, “It has been inspiring not only to create a new visual interpretation of this piece, but to explore the magnificent counterpoints and interplay among the voices in Ellington’s virtuosic band.”
Choreographer and Second Soloist Haley Schwan said, “Duke Ellington’s music encapsulates the spirit of the holiday season that we so enjoy bringing to the people of Boston each year. This process has really been about bringing some magic to the end of 2020. I hope that our joy of being back in the studio jumps through the screen to our audience at home.”
Choreographer and Artist of the Company My’Kal Stromile said, “This project has been an exciting challenge! I wanted to create choreography that is relatable, joyful and fun, while honoring the history of the original Tchaikovsky score. Duke Ellington illustrated his interpretation of The ‘Nutcracker’ in 1960, 68 years after the original, making the music feel very modern and quite jazzy.”
Choreographer and Boston Ballet II member Gabriel Lorena says, “Ellington’s music gives me power to feel like I own the whole stage. I wanted to create a work that would make the dancers feel the same way, with a piece that would bring power, personality, musicality, and artistry from their heart to your screen.”
Choreographer and post-graduate student Arianna Hughlett said, “As a young choreographer, I am especially grateful for Boston Ballet’s trust in me to create a piece. I’m very proud to be part of an organization that has so swiftly adapted to the times in order to keep creating art. ‘The Gift’ has brought me a sense of optimism for the future that I hope reaches audiences watching from home.”
“The Gift” is the second of six [email protected] programming. Single tickets for “The Gift” are on sale until Dec. 27 for $40 or it can be viewed as part of a [email protected] subscription. Boston Ballet’s virtual season features new creations, signature works, and classical ballet favorites captured live in-studio. Dancers have been back in the studios since September, rehearsing under a new health and safety plan, which was developed in partnership with a team of medical professionals and infectious disease specialists. For more information on [email protected], visit bostonballet.org.