Take a moment and think back to the first time you saw The Nutcracker. Perhaps you were young, with your parents, rolling from a holiday sugar rush and the excitement of an evening out. The lights dimmed, the orchestra now ready down below you and the first delicate steps of the children taking the stage, peeking at the Christmas tree commanded your attention. There’s a whimsical magic to performances like The Nutracker — one that transcends time — and reminds audiences of all ages what it feels like to be a child, at Christmas, in awe of the wonder and merriment of the season.
It goes without saying, I clearly love seeing The Nutracker each year. And since moving to New York, it’s become one of my beloved holiday traditions. So when I learned that the American Ballet Theater would be kicking off their annual Spring Gala with none other than Whipped Cream, a modern rendition of the German tale Schlagobers, a tale about young school children and a land of fantastic sweets and treats, I was instantly intrigued. After all, the parallels between it and The Nutracker are uncanny. Of course, with Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky handling choreography and renown visual artist Mark Ryden handling set and costume design, I not only was intrigued but was now eager to see how it would all come together.
The answer? It was nothing short of a visual feast.
Why? Because, much like a production like The Nutracker, Whipped Cream captures such a beautiful youthful innocence, one of merriment and laughter, of joy and glee — it practically radiates throughout the score, the movements and the set and costume designs (totaling around 150 unique designs).
Of course, as someone who particularly loves seeing how audiences pay sartorial homage to opening night performances like this, I again, was not disappointed. A lot of the same group that had graced the Met steps just a few weeks prior for the Met Gala showed up at Lincoln Center for ABT’s big night, in their red carpet finest, with — wait for it — a whimsical, and quite sweet flare that I think Ryden might approve of. Katie Holmes wore a romantic, red Zac Posen strapless gown, with just the right amount of tulle that could rival the sweetest of red velvet cupcakes. Blake Lively was a vision in a lemon drop yellow Oscar de la Renta dress. And Vogue’s Hamish Bowels donned a Dries Van Noten suit in the loveliest shade of marzipan pink.
Much like the performance itself, it was a night of childlike merriment (there were plenty of whipped cream fairies to be found roaming around after the performance), and I absolutely loved seeing the evening’s attendees suit up accordingly — with a sweet tooth and a smile.