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Beyond 'Nutcracker,' ballet abounds for rest of November

Mike Dunham
Maria Alexandrova in the title role in "Esmeralda"
Svetlana Zaharova as Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty"
Maryann Sundown performs one of her humorous routines, the "Bruce Lee" dance, during her performance with Maryarmiut, the dancers from Scammon Bay in 2000.
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Band members Gina Aki and Ryan Brehmer of Colony High School will march in New York on Thanksgiving.
Photo: Macy's
Yupik' elder Maryann Sundown, then 87, of Scammon Bay made a quest appearance with Upallret Dancers from Bethel during Quyana Alaska I presented by the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention Oct. 25, 2006.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Dan DeRoux's "Transported" is on display at the Mountain View Library.
Photo courtesy of Anchorage Public Works Department.

The Anchorage Concert Association's presentation of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" has become a major annual holiday event, traditionally taking place in the weekend after Thanksgiving.

This year's offering, a production from Eugene (Ore.) Ballet Company with dancers from Alaska Dance Theatre and a live orchestra of local musicians, will take place at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27, in Atwood Concert Hall. Tickets are $19-$41 at

Meanwhile, there's more old school ballet in a (relatively) new school format. The Fathom folks are presenting a big screen HD performance of "Sleeping Beauty," also by Tchaikovsky, in what's billed as a "live" broadcast from Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet.

"Live" is a relative term here. Showtime in Moscow would be about 6 a.m. in Anchorage, so it will be same-day delayed to show at 1:30 p.m. today at both Century and Regal theaters. This "Beauty" features the Bolshoi debut of David Hallberg, the first American dancer to sign on as a principal dancer with the famed company. It will be repeated 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Esmeralda," an 1844 retelling of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" by Cesare Pugni, was previously broadcast Oct. 9 -- though not in Anchorage from what I can tell. It will be re-broadcast at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30, and this time shown locally at Century and Regal.

Pugni was a major collaborator with Jules Perrot, the most acclaimed choreographer of the day, at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. "Esmeralda," the most enduring product of that collaboration, is hardly ever seen anywhere outside of Russia nowadays, but the pas de deux is excerpted for performances around the world, usually in a version with the tambourine added.

More information is available at www. and www.balletincinema. com.

On the wings of books

Dan DeRoux's percent for art piece for the new Mountain View Library was unveiled last month. The Juneau artist is known for mixing realism and symbolism -- like putting an Inupiat whaling party in the middle of the canals of Venice -- and "Transported" continues that approach. Seven life-size geese fly across the ceiling on wings made of books.

In a press release, the artist said, "The notion that books can transport you, take you away to another place was part of the inspiration. Also the notion that you can write your own story, and then live that life is very important."

The Mountain View Library branch is located at 120 Bragaw St.

Alaskans on parade

Congratulations to Gina Aki and Ryan Brehmer of Colony High School in Palmer. They're heading for New York City this week as Alaska's contingent in Macy's Great American Marching Band during the department store's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Aki, a senior, plays flute and Brehmer, a junior, is a clarinetist. They join an elite ensemble made up of musical students from every state in the union who march the two-mile route through the Big Apple. Tune to KTUU, Channel 2, from 9 a.m. to noon. But don't get so distracted that you forget to baste the turkey.

Strings behind bars

In what has become one of Alaska's more unusual holiday traditions, the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Women's String Orchestra will present its annual concert at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. This year the women will be joined by cellist Evan Drachman, a regular guest artist with the Sitka Summer Music Festival and Alaska Airlines Autumn Classics series.

The ensemble started in 2003 and has grown to 35 members with advancing skill levels.

Tax-deductible tickets are $25 at, Metro Music & Books or by emailing Arrangements to enter the facility must be made in advance, with purchasers submitting their driver's licenses or other I.D. for preclearance. Children under 12 are not permitted.

Regional juried shows

The Fourth Annual Kenai Peninsula Juried Watercolor Show is on display through Nov. 28 in the Kenai Fine Arts Center, 816 Cook Ave., Old Town Kenai.

Jurors Dot Bardarson, Jean Watson and Suzanne Bach selected "Kandee" by James Adcox for the Best of Show award. Work by Sherrill Miller received the Viewer's Choice award on opening day, Nov. 3.

Other recipients included: first prize, Georg-Anne Phillips; second prize, Gwen Thomas; third prize and honorable mention, Donna Schwanke-Cooper; honorable mention, Michael Murray.

The center, located in Kenai's former jailhouse, has recently gone through renovations including a refurbished front and installation of fire doors.

Of particular importance to viewers is an updated gallery lighting system with lights in a "warm" spectrum said to enhance colors and minimize damage from ultraviolet light. It's "the same lighting used in galleries and museums throughout the United States and Europe," said a press release.

An arts and craft fair to benefit the Peninsula Art Guild will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Kenai High School.

Schwanke-Cooper is involved in a second show, as a juror rather than an artist, the Second Annual Valley Fine Arts juried show. Danielle Guenther's graphite portrait, "Wisdom in Change" is the first prize winner in that show.

Ilene Paulson took second prize with "Pepper Line Up" and received an honorable mention for "Ice Scooper." I didn't see a third place, but the show is somewhat randomly hung with other pieces in the north gallery at Artic Rose, 420 L St., where it will be on display through Nov. 30.

New York dancers remember Sundown

In a recent forwarded email, Eiko and Koma Otaki, the New York dance team that most recently performed in Alaska under the aegis of Alaska Dance Theatre, recalled meeting Maryann Sundown at the Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel in 2009. Their trip was hosted by USA Artists and the Rasmuson Foundation, they said.

"Everything about this festival was eye opening. Seeing Sundown dance with her children, grandchildren, and (perhaps) great-grandchildren was a deeply joyful and inspiring experience for us. Then an amazing gift came. During the last day of the festival as we were watching other dancers' performances, we noticed (her) making a hand gestures from far in the audience seats. As we sat by her, she put her hair dress on (Eiko) saying something in Yup'ik. Her daughter translated, 'Thank you for coming here from a very far place.' And she too gave us hand fans. Both hair dress and hand fans are important for their Native dances and thus most precious gifts. Both Koma and I were overwhelmed.

"Thank you Maryann for your dancing, hospitality and great smile."

Sundown died in Scammon Bay on Oct. 26 at the age of 93.

Over the years, Sundown's first name has appeared in several different ways. "Mary Ann" seems to be most common on legal documents -- though I'm pretty sure no one ever called her just Mary. "Maryann" was the spelling given by the family.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.

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