Honolulu’s returning Cavalier, Joaquin De Luz, takes the stage Friday with a new Sugar Plum Fairy — make that “Sugar Plumeria Fairy” — as Angelica Generosa partners with him in this year’s staging of Ballet Hawaii’s popular, island-style production of “The Nutcracker.”
Once again, Ballet Hawaii is going big for the production, with guests from major national companies dancing the lead roles. Tchaikovsky’s beloved score will be performed by the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra.
De Luz,who recently the New York City Ballet after 15 years there, has become a local favorite during his 12-year association with Ballet Hawaii. He’s starred as the Cavalier almost every year.
“I really love the role, and I have a special place in my heart for this production and this place. It’s a wonderful feeling to feel like you have family away from home,” De Luz said.
Presented by Ballet Hawaii
>> Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; also 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: $40 to $125
>> Info: 800-745-3000 ballethawaii.org
“The audiences have been amazing too — I feel the love. They’ve been unconditional all the years that I’ve been there, and it’s very good to feel that,” he said, speaking from his home in New York City.
“It’s my favorite time of year to be on stage and see the admiration in their eyes and see their happiness.”
De Luz, 42, spoke highly of his new partner.
“I’m familiar with her dancing. She’s very strong, and I’m looking forward to working with her,” he said, comparing the partnership between dancers with a marriage.
“If the guy is willing to say, ‘Yes, dear,’ then there’s no problem,” he elaborated. “I learned that from a very young age, and it’s been working out. I really like to make the ballerina look beautiful — I think that’s our job as cavaliers and as partners.
“They’re the ones that are going en pointe, and we have to present them like a princess. There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”
Generosa, a soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet, is making her Honolulu debut as De Luz’s partner.
“I’ve never danced with Joaquin before, but I’m from the East Coast originally and I studied at the School of American Ballet where he used to perform, so I’ve seen him dance a lot as I was growing up,” Generosa said, speaking from her home in Seattle.
She’s been preparing for their first rehearsal by studying a Ballet Hawaii video of the show to familiarize herself with the concept and Septime Webre’s Sugar Plumeria Fairy choreography.
Generosa, 25, grew up dancing — tap, jazz, modern and ballet. She was 12 when she committed to ballet.
As a young dancer, Generosa earned scholarships at the School of American Ballet and Princeton Ballet School. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2011, was promoted to corps de ballet in 2012, and became a soloist in 2016.
BALLET HAWAII made history in 2016 when it changed the setting of the “Nutcracker” story from the home of a wealthy family in late 19th-century Germany to Washington Place in Honolulu, in the year 1858, when it was the home of Mary Dominis and part of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Dominis was the mother of John Owen Dominis and the mother-in-law of Princess Lili‘uokalani (who became queen in 1891).
Mary Dominis is believed to be the first person to have celebrated Christmas in Hawaii with a decorated Christmas tree. What is known for certain is that in 1858, she hosted a children’s party on Christmas Eve where Saint Nicholas distributed candies and gifts to guests.
Moving the story to Honolulu required a tremendous amount of reformatting in Act I. Most of the characters in Act II were “Hawaiianized” as well — the sensuous Arabian interlude became a sensuous duet by Hi‘iaka and Lohiau, and the giant Mother Ginger became the giant Mama Moana — but the Cavalier and the Sugar Plum/Plumeria Fairy retain their traditional appearance. So do the Snow Queen and Snow King — danced this year by the returning Lesley Rausch and Lucien Postlewaite, both also of Pacific Northwest Ballet.
The story has been a seasonal favorite for generations and is arguably the ballet most widely known by everyday Americans.
In the story, a wealthy family hosts a Christmas party that is visited by a mysterious man named Drosselmeyer and his youthful male assistant. The two bring with them large boxes containing marvelous gifts — and a large nutcracker figure carved in the shape of a soldier, which Drosselmeyer gives to the family’s daughter.
Much later in the evening, after the guests have departed, the girl has a dream in which the nutcracker leads toy soldiers in a victorious battle against a horde of rats and mice.
The nutcracker then becomes a handsome young prince who whisks her away on a magical journey; the girl meets the Snow Queen and Snow King, and then travels to the kingdom of the Sugar Plum/Plumeria Fairy and the Cavalier.
Timour Bourtasenkov, another of Ballet Hawaii’s favorite guest artists, has danced several roles — including the Snow King — since his first performance with Ballet Hawaii in 2000.
“Eighteen years, can you believe it? Time flies,” Bourtasenkov said, speaking from his home in North Carolina, where he is on the faculty of the Cary Ballet Conservatory.
Born in Moldova when it was still part of the Soviet Union, Bourtasenkov trained for two years with the famed Bolshoi Ballet before coming to the United States and eventually making it his home.
In addition to the Snow King, Bourtasenkov, 50, has distinguished himself in the Arabian, Spanish and Russian sections of “The Nutcracker.” This year he has a nondancing role in Act I and then returns as Popoki (a cat) in Act II.
“I’ve done everything for them,” Bourtasenkov said with a good-natured chuckle. “Just name it. I went through all of them and I like them all. I’ve done all the productions and it’s still fresh, it’s still new. It’s wonderful what they’ve done right now.”