“Whipped Cream” Delights

Grace Cutler, Writer

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American Ballet Theatre’s Whipped Cream was in Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre from April 11th through April 14th. The show’s story is set in Vienna, featuring a young boy who feels ill after eating too much whipped cream at a pastry shop and goes to the doctor’s office, where the show takes a turn towards fantasy. The bakery’s characters all come alive and attempt to help the boy escape the doctor’s office.

The choreography, by Alexei Ratamansky, is unexpected and transforms a somewhat everyday situation into a fantastical occurrence. The costumes and set, done by Mark Ryden, are out of the ordinary and could be an art show of their own. The show as whole, somewhat reminiscent of The Nutcracker, is exciting and lots of fun.

My favorite piece in the show was the last piece of the first act – when the “whipped cream” dances. This piece was a large corps piece with no lead dancer, and all of the dancers wore the same costumes – white, full-body bodysuits with a pointed tip on the hood to mimic the tip of whipped cream. Hanging off from the dancers, in an almost mysterious way, was a sheer white fabric that moved effortlessly with the dancers. It seemed to just hover around their bodies.

The stage was set with a really beautiful background of what looked like mountains of whipped cream. As the dancers came on, a fog machine spewed fog onto the floor, which started swirling and moving around the dancers as they moved through it.

The dancers’ movements were performed with a similar sort of quality of gentleness and ease. They, to no surprise, had excellent technique, which really showed through in this piece, given there was no showy principal dancer to draw the audience’s attention. The piece, while beautiful, has a slight feeling of eeriness and mystery.

Another piece in the show that I really enjoyed was the boy at the doctor’s office. The lighting was dark and the stage was completely empty aside from a sterile looking bed and an ominous eye projected on the black backdrop, which blinked every so often. The boy was in bed and the doctor, who had on a huge costume head in order to make the dancer as the boy look little and young, was poking and prodding the boy. Suddenly, an army of nurses carrying oversized syringes (almost the size of their bodies) appeared on stage.

They all wore the same long, white dresses with a small, red cross and nurse hats. The dresses, although simple, moved really beautifully. The nurses moved in an aggressive manner and used their huge syringes in all sorts of creative ways, giving the dance something special. This piece definitely had a dark and creepy feeling, which contrasted nicely with the rest of the show’s lighthearted and whimsical manner.

Overall, I really enjoyed Whipped Cream and would most definitely recommend it. I, personally, am a ballet fan, so it’s not surprising. However, even this show’s whimsical manner, combined with the unusual costumes and set design make it a show to see even by those less ballet-inclined. I had never seen ABT perform before, and they certainly lived up to their stellar reputation.

The show, as a whole, is excellent and will continue its tour in New York, at the Metropolitan Opera House.