American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM Review – Sweet with a Hint of Spice

American Ballet Theatre (ABT)  takes audiences through a child’s imaginative sugar-rush dream in the Chicago premiere of Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky’s Whipped Cream at the Auditorium Theatre.

American Ballet Theatre Production is Full of Whimsy

At first glance the plot of Ratmansky’s 2017 ballet is simple: After a trip to the candy shop, A Boy eats too much whipped cream and makes himself sick, and dreams of a land of sweets fill his head. But within that story, Ratmansky let’s the imagination go wild.

Similar to The Nutcracker’s Land of Sweets, Ratmansky’s world features a variety of whimsical characters from Princess Tea Flower and her Attendants, to Prince Coffee and his Guards, Prince Cocoa, Don Zucchero, to an army of Gingerbread Men. Each sneaks out of their box on the candy shop shelf to perform while the Chef is away. These scenes are delightfully playful and fun.

American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Isabella Boylston in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.

But the dream turns into a nightmare very swiftly in Act 2 when we find The Boy in the doctor's office, nurses coming at him in all directions and a giant blinking eye projected at the top of the curtain. Some of these darker scenes provide a good contrast to the overly sweet dancing candy but at times, at least in this writer’s view,  leave audience members scratching their heads, wondering where the ballet is going and how all its moving parts fit together.

Ratmansky’s choreography reflects the plot, simple and classic but with a twist. The movements and score resemble that of a classical ballet, but certain leaps and partnering combinations have their unique twists, as do many of the character’s personalities.

American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Stella Abrera in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.

An Actor’s Ballet

The theatrical nature of Whipped Cream sets it apart. Each of the principal dancers’ characters have a unique personality that really shines through in the ballet. It seems as if The Boy’s character was created especially for Daniil Simkin, with choreography allowing him many high jumps, animated expressions, and innocent demeanor.

Princess Praline, danced by Sarah Lane, epitomizes here character’s name-- adorable and sweet, with a hint of shyness that comes through in both her acting and Ratmansky’s choreography. Simkin and Lane together dance a precious pas de deux that portrays the innocence of young love.

For comedic relief, Ratmansky offers Mademoiselle Marianna Chartreuse, danced by Catherine Hurlin, and Ladislav Slivovitz and Boris Wutki, danced by Duncan Lyle and Marshall Whiteley. The three dressed as liquor bottles, stumble over one another in a fight for the other’s affection. Hurlin is especially sassy and her character becomes a crowd favorite.

American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Scene from Whipped Cream. Photo: Leisure and Cultural Services Department of HKSAR.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Christine Shevchenko, Alexandre Hammoudi and Thomas Forster in Whipped Cream. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.

Deliciously Decadent

You too  may find that the most memorable and lavish part of Whipped to be the costumes and set. Each character is decked out in crystals and brightly colored fabrics. The costumes and set immerse us in the world of The Boy’s dreams and transports us  on the journey with him. The costumes for each of the sweets draw us in to relish their details and intricacy --from the individual leaves on Princess Tea Flower’s tutu to Prince Cocoa’s royal chocolate colored ensemble.  The only costume that felt somewhat lacking in this reviewer's eyes, was the Whipped Cream corps de ballet. Their skin tight hooded white unitards felt a little lackluster compared to the drama of the rest of the costumes and scenery.

Not only are the candy dancers costumed to perfection, but ABT has created larger than life creatures including Teddy Bears, a Snow Yak, a Gumball Lady, and a magical Wizard; Nicolo, the Master of Ceremonies that fill the stage throughout the ballet as a moving part of the scenery.

In some moments, Whipped Cream keeps it classical and is reminiscent of the story ballets we know, but other times it pushes the audience past our boundaries through the use of larger than life characters and plotlines, and worlds previously unimagined.

Recommended

American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Daniil Simkin in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Scene from Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Scene from Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Sarah Lane in Whipped Cream. Photo: Doug Gifford.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Scene from Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Scene from Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre Presents WHIPPED CREAM
Alexei Agoudine in Whipped Cream. Photo: Doug Gifford.

Principal Dancers:

Daniil Simkin: The Boy
Stella Abrera: Princess Tea Flower
Calvin Royal III: Prince Coffee
Sarah Lane: Princess Praline

When:

Now playing through April 14
Friday April 12 at 7:30pm, Saturday April 13 at 2pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday April 14 at 2pm

Where:

The Auditorium Theatre
50 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605

Tickets:

For tickets and more information visit the Auditorium Theatre’s website

Photos: Gene Schiavone and Doug Gifford, unless otherwise indicated.

Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here— 

Hayley Ross

About the Author:

Hayley Ross graduated from Ohio University in 2016 with degrees in Dance and Journalism. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hayley began dancing at the age of four. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, and African dance and regularly can be found taking dance and Pilates at Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio. Hayley has completed internships at CityScene Media Group, OhioDance, the Chautauqua Institution, and American Dance Festival. She currently works in the Marketing department at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as the Marketing Manager. Learn more about Hayley at hayleyross.weebly.com

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