Review: Dallas Ballet Company, The Nutcracker

Photo: David C. Harris/Time Frames Photography
Photo: David C. Harris/Time Frames Photography

Holiday Blend

Strong storytelling, elaborate set design and dynamic guest performances are some of the highlights at Dallas Ballet Company’s annual Nutcracker performance in Garland.

Dallas — After 28 seasons Dallas Ballet Company (DBC) Artistic Directors Brent and Judy Klopfenstein know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to their version of The Nutcracker. Intricate set design, light-hearted narratives, cleverly crafted group dances and dynamic individual performances are what audiences have come to expect and DBC didn’t disappoint at Saturday afternoon’s showing of The Nutcracker at the Granville Arts Center in Garland.

Guest Artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet were magnetic in their roles as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. They both displayed unwavering control as Blanco manipulated Daly through the tricky body rotations and balance holds in the grande pas de deux at the end of the show. Despite his broad frame Blanco was very lighted-footed in his jumps and pulled off his triple pirouette effortlessly. Daly was like watching a shooting star on a clear night. She ricocheted across the floor in a series of pique turns finishing in a flawless arabesque hold. Her breathy exhales and soundless, fast foot work made her a captivating performer to watch.

The show also contained some standout performances by a few DBC members. Lanie Jackson dazzled in her role as the Snow Queen. In addition to exquisite technique, Jackson’s innate musicality gave her the freedom to explore different qualities of movements. One minute her arm placement is razor-sharp and body position exacting and the next her arms are exploding to match her exhale at the top of a soutenu turn into a smooth shoulder lift. Even though Morgan McClinchie (Snow King) could have used more tension in his body while leading Jackson around the stage, his capacity for the press up lifts and backward progressing catches were impressive. McClinchie also got to showcase his clean technique and jumping chops as the lead in the Waltz of the Flowers alongside Isaac Hileman and Christian Otto. Long-limbed and naturally poised, all three young men take after Guest Choreographer Jason Fowler, a former soloist with New York City Ballet and DBC alum. Waltz of the Flowers lead Olivia Mann wowed the audience with her rhythmic breathing patterns, supple feet and unending extensions.

Whereas the Snow Corps were not as springy in their movements as Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score demands and traffic patterns and timing were not always clear at times, The Waltz of the Flowers Corps was the exact opposite. All eight dancers executed the fluttery arm movements and striking pointe work with spunk and synchronized musicality.

Photo: David C. Harris/Time Frames Photography
Photo: David C. Harris/Time Frames PhotographyGranvi

The opening party scene at the Silberhaus’ house was quick moving, yet predictable with Drosselmeyer’s (Randolph McKee) eccentric showmanship, Clara’s youthful vigor and the adequate performances by the Harlequin and Columbine Doll and Mechanical Solider. Audiences enjoyed the maturity Annie Corley brought to the role of Clara. Her obvious skill and effervescent personality were used throughout the show and not just in the first half. The group dances in the first half were refreshing thanks to the use of props such as fans, baby dolls and swords. The movement itself was rudimentary (i.e. waltz steps, chaines, tendues and traveling chasses), yet it was performed cleanly and concurrently. The battle scene was more playful than menacing with the younger performers portraying the mice and soldiers. The flashing red and white lights on the otherwise dark stage added to the scene’s drama.

The large props present in almost every scene added to the overall fanciful theme, but in some cases they also slowed down the transitions between scenes especially during the second half. The Spanish Chocolate group made up for the drawn-out pause with spirited jumps and saucy skirt flicks. Terrance Martin reprised his role as the Arabian and proved he is still capable of performing the front walkovers and back handsprings that dubs this section a crowd pleaser. Whitney Hester surprised us with her sharp point work and controlled upper body positions as the lead in Chinese Tea. But what really sets DBC’s production apart from others is the skill set of even its youngest dancers. Basic, yet clean movement choices and fun use of props is why the Gingerbread scene remains an audience favorite.

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