Review: The Nutcracker, LakeCities Ballet Theatre

LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

Live music makes this Nutcracker even sweeter!

LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT) continues its 30th anniversary season with its annual production of The Nutcracker ringing in the holiday spirit with strong dancing and live music.

This engaging and well-rounded performance, on Nov. 30 at the Marcus High School Auditorium in Flower Mound, Texas, featured creative storytelling, challenging choreography, amazing guest artists, and elaborate costuming and set designs. And topping it off, LBT invited the Lewisville Lake Symphony, led by Adron Ming, to perform Pyotr IIyich Tchailkovsky’s classic composition.

Upon entering the auditorium, one immediately noticed the twinkling lights and Christmas trees adorning the sides of the stage, as well as the Lewisville Lake Symphony tuning up for the opening party scene. Choreographing a scene like this –– with all the props and people required –– can sometimes be a real challenge.

LBT Artistic Director Kelly Lannin eliminated potential overcrowding by having performers enter the stage from the audience. Her organizational skills also showed in the performers’ military-precision formations and smooth transitions from the children’s dance to the adults. The movement Lannin used highlighted the company’s beautiful lines, proficient pointe work and confident poise. Even the youngest dancers knew how to lift out of their spine and work through the ankle when pointing their toes.

It’s during this party scene that sweet Clara (Carley Denton) receives her beloved nutcracker from her Godfather Drosselmeyer, played by the charming Kenn Wells. At 15, Denton is a more mature Clara, but she’s still able to capture the childlike essence of the character with the added bonus of more advanced technique.

The battle scene between the Nutcracker Prince (Ruben Gerding) and the Mouse King (Robert Stewart) was clean and clever. The sword play between Gerding and Stewart came across very natural and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the little comedic moments, including the Mouse King’s exaggerated dying scene.

The transition to the dreamy snow scene was well done and enhanced by dim lighting, wispy white tutus, and feather-soft movement. The dancers appeared to float across the stage in a series of fast leaps and turns. Even though the Snow King (Michael Eaton) and Snow Queen (Amanda Evans) had a couple of moments of disconnect during their pas de deux, it didn’t have a huge impact on their overall performance.

In the second act, choreographic and production surprises kept coming with the introduction of Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Kent is the epitome of grace and elegance while Radetsky has a commanding stage presence. When sharing the stage with seasoned, world-class pros, such as Kent and Radetsky, it is imperative the other dancers try to match them in energy and movement quality. That was not a problem for LBT. The Spanish Chocolate dancers: Amanda Evans, Kendall Galey, Logan Lockhart, and Sophie Van Den Handel have been dancing together for years, and it shows in their timing and concise movement. Even though they’re at different heights and builds, their grande battements and arm placements were uniform.

Kendall Galey as the Dew Drop Fairy and Guest Artist Steven Loch. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
Kendall Galey as the Dew Drop Fairy and Guest Artist Steven Loch. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

The Arabian Coffee piece (Faith Jones and Shannon Beacham) was what one would expect: controlled over-the-head lifts and slow contorted shapes. The Chinese Tea section was slightly outshined by the live accompaniment, but the Russian Baba (Guest Artist Andre Harrington) made up for that with powerful tumbling skills that climaxed with the music.

The Waltz of the Flowers featured intricate weaving patterns and a beautiful partnership between Kendall Galey (Dew Drop Fairy) and Guest Artist Steven Loch. They both have infectious smiles and lovely technique. Kent and Radetsky’s effortless grande pas de deux was divine and the perfect note to end the show.

If LBT keeps moving in this direction, there’s no doubt it will be around for another 30 years.

This review was originally featured on www.WorldArtsToday.com.

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