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Nutcracker’s highlight of Andrew Kurtz holiday season


Gulf Coast Symphony and Gulfshore Ballet are partnering again this year to bring Southwest Florida The Nutcracker. This year, the enduring fantasy of Christmas come to life on stage features principals Natalie Alvarez and Ataru Matsuya, new choreography by Gulfshore Ballet Artistic Directors Iliana Lopez & Franklin Gamero and the timeless music of Tchaikovsky.

The two-act ballet is the highlight of Maestro Andrew Kurtz holiday season. There are many reasons.

“Well first of all Tchaikovsky is an amazing composer,” says Kurtz. “I’ve loved Tchaikovsky since I was a small child, and this is just a classic Tchaikovsky score these majestic moments in the music and tremendous energy and great flourishes, which are all mirrored, of course, in the dance.”

The music is so uplifting and exciting that everyone in the orchestra relishes the chance to perform The Nutcracker each year in spite of the fact that they’re crammed into an under-sized pit that prevents them from seeing the beautiful costumes, sets and pageantry unfolding on stage.

“It’s like seeing a close friend who comes only once a year,” Kurtz observes. “Of course, there’s always new players every year having first experiences. But [for the rest of us] it’s always great coming back to the score.”

The Nutcracker is not just a tradition for the orchestra. It’s become an event that’s eagerly anticipated locally by people who love classical music, ballet and just plain old great holiday entertainment.

“The most exciting thing for me about The Nutcracker is we’ve really made it a Southwest Florida tradition,” comments Kurtz. “It’s something we’ve been doing now with Gulfshore Ballet for nearly a decade.”

The evolution of Gulf Coast Symphony and Gulfshore Ballet mirror each other.

“We were primarily community based with a small number of professionals and now we’re essentially a professional orchestra with a small group of community members who still play in the symphony,” Kurtz points out. This year, Gulfshore Ballet has become a professional company, so we have the professional dancers as well as their school’s students performing, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

And in Kurtz’s estimation, that’s the “special sauce” for both organizations.

“To have the enthusiasm and passion and love coming from the people who are doing it because they want to be there along with these young professionals who are pushing to have this great career just makes for great chemistry.”

Kurtz has seen Ballanchine performances over the years in New York and Philadelphia. He became intimately familiar with the interplay between professional ballet dancers and Tchaikovsky’s soaring score as Assistant Conductor of the Pennsylvania Ballet years ago. In his estimation, GCS and Gulfshore Ballet’s collaboration ranks among the country’s top productions.

“This is a first-class, first-rate production that you would see anywhere in the country,” said Kurtz. “So, if Nutcracker means the holidays to you as it does to me, this is the performance you really want to see.”

Kurtz cites the magnificent sets, dazzling costumes, and opulent confines of the 1,795-seat BB Mann Performing Arts Hall as features that distinguish this production of Nutcracker.

“So, you have this massive stage where you may have 70, 80 dancers at one point, and scenery and these costumes plus a full symphony in the pit creating this wonderful sound,” said Kurtz. “Having been to venues all across the world, really, it’s a really nice venue. It’s excellent for sound and it’s great for sight lines …. So, it’s definitely a great place to have a first experience with the Nutcracker.”

So plan on joining the Gulfshore Ballet and the Gulf Coast Symphony as the lights dim, the music soars, snowflakes swirl, flowers dance, and a little girl dreams about Sugar Plum Fairies and handsome princes coming to life in an enchanted world. Performances are at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 16th in the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.

December 10, 2023.

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