Published in QVegas issue December 2009
A staple for many throughout the holiday season is the magical story of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, whether on television, over the radio or on the stage. But this year, renowned choreographer, Peter Anastos is bringing it to the Las Vegas audience at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre.
“Nutcracker is famous and Nutcracker works because it’s a tradition. It only works because it’s a tradition,” Anastos explained. “But this is a new production of Nutcracker. This is my Nutcracker; it’s never been done here before. So people who like (this ballet) will hopefully come because they’ll get to see a different version. And it’s always exciting to see a new Nutcracker.”
Although this performance will be different, it’s still going to be a traditional representation, Anastos assured. “The Nutcracker is really like apple pie; there’s only so much experimenting you can do before you wreck it.”
But some of the differences the Las Vegas audiences can expect are lots of dancing and lots of children. “The accent really is on the dancing. There’s a lot of big dancing in it – it’s full of dancing. There’s not a lot of production or tricks or anything. It’s just full of really good dancing. And the only other thing I would say about it is it really uses an awful lot of children in important ways. The kids are not accessories in this Nutcracker; the kids are the main event. They have a lot to do. They’re in every scene. The kids are really good. And it’s about them after all.”
Because Anastos’ production of The Nutcracker utilizes so many children rehearsals started in September. Anastos isn’t just working with one cast of dancers, he’s working with three. This winter, Anastos’ Nutcracker will be performed in Boise, Idaho; Billings, Montana; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We should get the Noble Peace Prize. These are all student dancers; some of them are as young as six or seven, and it was a wide variety of kids in Boise, Billings and Las Vegas. But the kids did really great.”
Anastos didn’t start dancing himself until he was 17 years old, which is a fairly late start in the ballet. “I started way too late to have a career,” Anastos recounted. “That’s probably why I became a choreographer.”
Although he currently sticks to choreography, this was not always the case. In 1974 Anastos founded and starred as the prima ballerina of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a drag ballet that poked fun of famous ballets.
“We did it as a kind of joke,” Anastos laughed. “We did not plan for it to be successful or go on. It was just a joke. And then it became insanely successful, and they’re still running around the world doing my ballets. It’s kind of weird— 35 years later and they’re still at it.”
Ballet is usually considered a dance for women. Very few ballets have as many male roles as female roles, and the competition can get fierce.
“It was hard to break in (as a male) which is why, in a way, I didn’t break in as a male. In a way my first real professional experience was the Trockadero, so in a way I had already figured out that it was easier to break into ballet as a ballerina. My career was entirely backward. I started out as a prima ballerina. I just declared myself as a prime ballerina, and said, ‘Here I am; this is it.’ And The Trockadero started dancing and we just presented ourselves as stars. We did it entirely backward. We never worked our way up through the ranks. We said, ‘We’re ballerinas; we’re stars,’ and we ran out there and did our crazy stuff, but everybody believed it. So it’s kind of odd that I started my career in ballet as a ballerina, and then later on, I became a normal person,” Anastos sighed and chuckled.
Since leaving The Trockadero in 1980, Anastos has been all over the world, choreographing ballets for community stages, Broadway, operas and film. He has also published essays about ballet and is a contributor to the book, Reading Dance.
Today, Anastos balances his time between Boise, Idaho; Billings, Montana; and Las Vegas, Nevada. However, after The Nutcracker ends, he will be based in Boise and will continue working with the Ballet Idaho. Anastos has really loved his time with the Nevada Ballet Theatre and hopes to work with them again, but he is content in his work and life in the present.
“It’s no good, really, to sit around pining away at something that was a favorite two or three years ago because you’ll get back to it eventually some other time,” Anastos explained. “This is the way it’s worked out for me, and I think it’s worked out beautifully. I really like it this way. I mean this is how it should be. It’s perfect.”
The Nevada Ballet Theatre will be performing Anastos’ production of The Nutcracker at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre starting December 18th through the 24th. Ticket prices range from $30-$85 plus fess. For more information on the Nevada Ballet Theatre Nutcracker performances visit,www.nevadaballet.com.