Tag Archives: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker: Collin County Ballet Theatre

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Collin County Ballet Theatre Presents The Nurcracker. Photo: Fermaint Photography

This year’s Nutcracker season concludes with Collin County Ballet Theatre’s spirited version featuring stunning guest artists and live music at the Eisemann Center.

Richardson — With more than 15 professional and pre-professional The Nutcracker productions running from Thanksgiving to Christmas each year, ballet company directors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have to continuously find new ways to up their production value if they want to stand out from the rest of the Nut pack. For some ballet companies this means tweaking choreography, storylines and stage setup while for others it means adding live music and big names from local and national dance companies to draw in the crowds, which is exactly what Collin County Ballet Theatre (CCBT) does with its Nutcracker production. While the promise of live music and notable guest performers is what initially got me to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts last Tuesday evening, it was the budding technical range and intuitive musicality displayed by the Senior Company (Brittany Chambers, Emily Dunaway, Aurelia Han, Lauren Huynh, Abigail Linnabary, Marissa Storey and Carissa Weaver) as well as Junior Company Member Alisa Ishikawa’s luminous performance as Clara that puts CCBT’s Nutcracker production in a class of its own.

For those unfamiliar with the 19th century holiday ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, here is a quick synopsis: The story begins at the Silberhaus’ annual Christmas party where family and friends have gathered to eat, drink, dance and exchange gifts. Herr Drosselmeyer arrives late and entertains the children with magic tricks before handing out toys to everyone, including a nutcracker doll for young Clara. After Clara falls asleep she dreams of her nutcracker doll coming to live and battling an army of mice led by the Rat King. Once the Rat King is defeated the Nutcracker Prince escorts Clara through the Land of Snow and across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of the Sweets where couples from different nations are waiting to dance for her, including the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Most Nutcracker productions have the cast enter the stage during the musical introduction at the beginning, but CCBT Director’s Kirt and Linda Hathaway cleverly chose to leave the stage blank and just let the audience soak in the crisp, pervasive sounds of the Plano Symphony Orchestra (PSO) led by Hector Guzman. Nothing beats live music at a dance performance. It adds new depth and excitement to a dancer’s performance, which we clearly saw in the Merlitons and The Waltz of the Flowers variations as well as the Grand Pas de Deux with the Cuban Prima Ballerina Adiarys Almeida (Melian Izotov Dec. 22) and World Ballet Competition Gold Medalist Taras Domitro (Shea Johnson Dec. 22).

The Hathaway’s kept the movement in the party scene simple with repetitive combinations that included waltz steps, pas de chats, glissades, piques and detournes, which the adults and children cleanly executed while also changing directions and group formations. Timing was off here and there and movement appeared fuzzy at times, but the performers continued to garner strength and confidence as the scene progressed. Alisa Ishikawa (Clara) was a guiding light for the younger dancers on stage. She confidently led the children across the stage in a number of skipping and running passes. She also exuded youthful vigor and technical brilliance in her solo moments which showcased her supple pointe work and graceful arms. Additionally, Ishikawa had some endearing moments with Kirt Hathaway (Drosselmeyer) who charmed audiences with his gleeful expressions and dynamic gesturing.

Once Clara is asleep chaos ensued in the form of tiny dancers dressed up as mice. They scurried around the stage as dancers dressed in red and white solider uniforms tried to coral them with their militant arm movements and clipped marching steps. The battle scene was where CCBT’s Resident Company began to shine. Jamie Thompson (former member of Dallas Black Dance Theatre) was a ball of controlled energy with his multiple jumps and grand battements, and Lauren Gonzales (CCBT instructor and choreographer) was the most agile Rat King I have seen all season with her head whacking leg extensions and multiple fouette turns.

The momentum in the battle scene carried over into the snow scene thanks to the striking violins offset by a brass counter melody that the dancing snowflakes then paralleled with their springy yet sometimes heavy footwork and fluttery arm movements. CCBT Resident Company Member Ashton Leonard’s rigid spine kept her from filling out some of the poignant musical notes in the Snow Pas de Deux, but she countered that with beautiful control during the adagio sections and a fearless approach to the numerous lifts. Guest Artist Shea Johnson continues to work on his technical control and onstage chemistry, which was evident in his tight landings and the confident way he led Leonard through the intricate partnering skills.

The second act contained even more exuberant dance sequences, standout instrumentals by PSO and exquisite performances from individual CCBT company members and guest performers. The dim lighting at the start of the Lemonade Sea section prohibited us from seeing the pretty green hues of the Sea Maidens and Sea Sprites costuming as well as most of Carissa Weaver’s Sea Queen choreography, but the lights did brighten up as we were welcomed into the Kingdom of the Sweets by a dozen cute cherubs.

The variations in the second half were hit or miss. While Brittany Chambers, Marissa Storey and Adrian Aguirre (CCBT Resident Company) had the tendency to rush at times, the trio did handle the playful shifts from staccato to sequential movement in the Spanish dance with polished ease. A stumble earlier in the act threw Emily Dunaway off her game in the Arabian duo, but kudos to her for maintaining the slow, hypnotic feel of the music with her unhurried back arches and leg extensions aided by Michael Stone (CCBT Resident Company). Katelyn Benhardt and Sophie Ludwig were not always in unison during the Chinese variation, but they attacked the nuances in the fast-paced number with exacting pointe work and endless energy.

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Photo: Fermaint Photography

Aurelia Han, Lauren Huynh and Abigail Linnabary did not miss a beat or, in this case, a ballonne (a step in which the dancer springs into the air extending one leg to the front, side or back) in the Merlitons variation, while Reid Frye (CCBT Resident Company) wowed viewers with his acrobatic skills as the Trepak. Linnabary, Huynh and Weaver also embodied the ethereal qualities of the lead fairies in the Waltz of the Flowers with their flickering foot work, graceful arm positions and subtle musicality.

The highlight of the evening was the Grand Pas de Deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy (Adiarys Almeida) and her Cavalier (Taras Domitro). Almedia was the epitome of a prima ballerina with her technical fortitude, amazing body control and musical maturity. It appeared as if her body was the source of the music as she twirled, leaped and fluttered across the stage. Domitro also entranced the audience with his tender handling of Almedia during the various dips and balances in the partnering sections as well as his explosive leaps and quadruple pirouettes.

<< This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

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Review: Nutcracker, LakeCities Ballet Theatre

LakeCities Ballet Theatre offer up a visual feast of vibrant dancing and stellar guest artists in honor of its 25th production of The Nutcracker.

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LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s 25th annual presentation of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch

Flower Mound — With stunning sets, exquisite dancing and live musical accompaniment provided by the Lewisville Lake Symphony, it’s no wonder LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s (LBT) annual production of the Nutcracker is one of the top items on people’s to do list every holiday season. This year’s Nutcracker performance was especially festive as it not only marked the company’s 25th anniversary of the holiday classic but was also the first time LBT sold out both showings at Marcus High School in Flower Mound this past weekend. This Nutcracker production also marks a transitional year for the company as many of its senior members graduated last spring, including Sydney Greene, Ali Honchell and Mackenna Pieper, giving members the opportunity to set up to the plate.

For those needing a refresher, the Nutcracker ballet is divided into two acts. The first includes a large party scene where our heroine Clara receives a Nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. When Clara goes to sleep that night she dreams of a battle between the Rat King and her Nutcracker Prince and also the Kingdom of Sweets where couple’s from different nationalities, including Russia, China and Spain perform for the reigning couple. After the climactic Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier pas de deux, Clara returns to her bed where she awakens from this wondrous dream.

Sarah Lane and Daniel Ulbricht in the grand pas de deux in The Nutcracker at LakeCities Ballet Theatre. Photo: Nancy Loch

In LBT’s version, audiences are immediately pulled into the story as families heading to the Silberhaus’ annual Christmas party marched down the aisles and up onto the stage. Former English National Ballet dancer Kenn Wells (Herr Drosselmeyer) keeps the audience connected as he gestures to us to help him find the location of the party. Artistic Director Kelly Lannin’s fine eye for details, imaginative choreography and quirky sense of humor are on display throughout the party scene from the inventive adult and children dance sequences to Wells’ well-timed practical jokes and Mayor Silberhaus’ (Chuck Denton) over-the-top facial expressions especially after he ingests one too many holiday spirits. Not everyone may have noticed, but Denton also smoothly orchestrated almost every transition in the party scene from the lighting of the tree and the puppet show to the presentation of the Ballerina and Cadet dolls. Madeline Hanly and guest artist Ruben Gerding perfectly captured the doll’s unyielding forms with their pursed lips, angular arm gestures and jerky upper body movements.

Carly Greene shone in the role of Clara. Her natural grace and infectious personality were enhanced by her poignant pointe work and passionate character portrayal. Unlike other productions where Clara does very little after the first half, Lannin gives Greene many opportunities to flex her technical muscles throughout the show, much to the viewers delight. The only instance I am on the fence about is Lannin’s decision to feature Greene and guest artist Jack Wolff (Nutcracker Prince) at the beginning of the Snow Scene, a spot that is typically reserved for the Snow Queen and King pas de deux. Don’t misunderstand, Greene and Wolff nailed every singlearabesque hold, assisted pirouette and various sustained body movements, but their performance just couldn’t match up to the exciting lifts and complex pointe work that Mackenna Pieper and Shannon Beacham have perfected over the years in their roles of Snow Queen and King. Pieper, who graduated last year, has left some hard shoes to fill and it will be interesting to see who rises to the challenge. Adult member Faith Jones’ super long legs and penchant for beautifully controlled movements would fit the role nicely as would Carley Denton’s commanding stage presence and regal posturing.

The cast carried the party vibe over into the second half with more lively and technically brilliant performances by both LBT company members and special guests Sarah Lane (American Ballet Theatre) and Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Denton was fun and flirty as the lead of the Spanish dancers, deftly guiding the rest of the corp, including Chloe Davis, Ashleigh Eaton, Kelsey Rhinehelder and Mikaela Seale through a series of rhythmic hands claps and fast foot work. Jones and Beacham displayed amazing control and dexterity in the Arabian dance especially when Jones bent backwards and held onto her foot while Beacham rotated her in a circle. Guest Artist Andre Harrington got the audience up and cheering with his consecutive back handsprings, while a surprise appearance by former Dallas Cowboys player Isaiah Stanback in the role of Mother Ginger sporting a Cowboys jersey and helmet on top of the large colorful skirt housing eight tiny dancers had the audience in stitches.

Lane and Ulbricht were sublime in the grand pas de deux at the end of the show. They executed the controlledpromenades, ponche arabesques and shifting epaulement phrases in a calm and fluid manner. Lane’s breathy exhales during her multiple pirouettes and various jumping sequences made her moves appear bigger and bolder. Ulbricht’s incredible artistry and athleticism are well known in the ballet world. He eats up the space with his gravity defying jetes and barely makes a sound when he drops to his knee after performing consecutive tours en l’air.

Lannin and her team should be proud of the whimsical and welcoming Nutcracker production they have diligently fostered over the last 25 years. I’m looking forward to seeing how the younger dancers progress into the ballet’s more challenging roles in the coming years.

This review was originally posted  on TheaterJones.com.

 

Get Crackin’

Get into the holiday spirit with any one of these Nutcracker productions, from the traditional to Nearly Naked, offer across Dallas-Fort Worth. Plus a list of other holiday dance.

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The Nutcracker from Texas Ballet Theate. Photo: Steven Visneau

It’s that time of year again! In between all the shopping, decorating and baking you have planned this holiday season make sure you set some time aside to check out one of the numerous Nutcracker productions being offered by many of the professional and pre-professional dance companies across Dallas-Fort Worth. For audiences west of the DFW Airport, Texas Ballet Theater will be running Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker for multiple weekends at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Additionally, Ballet Frontier of Texas and North Central Civic Ballet will be presenting their annual Nutcracker performances at Will Rogers Auditorium.

For residents north of Dallas there are myriad Nutcrackers to choose from, including versions by LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton, and Allen Civic Ballet in Allen. The Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, will soon be bursting with holiday cheer when Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet, Royale Ballet Dance Academy, Tuzer Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre bring their Nutcracker productions here beginning Thanksgiving weekend and continuing till Christmas. The Irving Arts Center is another popular venue for local Nutcracker productions, including versions by Ballet Ensemble of Texas, International Ballet Theater and Momentum Dance Company. And in Dallas the Moscow Ballet returns to McFarlin Auditorium at Southern Methodist University with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker, featuring new costumes and set designs.

You can even hear Tchaikovsky’s full Nutcracker played by the Dallas Symphony, without dancers, if you’re so inclined.

And if you are in need of a change this season, check out any number of the holiday dance shows being offered, including Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday Celebration at Dallas City Performance Hall; Epiphany DanceArts Tis the Season at the Eisemann; Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutty Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall; and even a burlesque show in Dallas aptly named Nearly Naked Nutcracker. A full list of all the Nutcrackers and holiday productions in the area can be found below.

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Sarah Lane (ABT) and Daniel Ulbricht (NYCB) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in LBT’s 2014 version of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch

Nov. 20-21 Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. $40-$50. Call 817-689-7310 or visit www.balletfrontier.org

Nov. 20-22 Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. This year’s production features new costumes for Act I by designer Arthur Oliver and two new backdrops by Academy Award Nominee Carl Sprague. $28-$88. Call 800-745-3000 or visit www.tickmaster.com

Nov. 27-29 Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $15-$100. Call 972-744-4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 27-29 Momentum Dance Company brings the holiday tale to life with choreography by Jacquelyn Ralls Forcher at the Irving Arts Center. $15-$25. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Nov. 28-29 LakeCities Ballet Theatre celebrates its 25th annual production of The Nutcracker which features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. $20-$45. Call 972-317-7987 or visitwww.lakecitiesballet.org

Dec. 4-6 Dallas Ballet Company presents The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland. $23-$24. Call 972-205-2790 or visit www.garlandarts.com

Dec. 5 Local dancers Harry Feril (Bruce Wood Dance Project) and Yulia Ilina (Avant Chamber Ballet) join theInternational Ballet Theater for its production of The Nutcracker Sweet at the Irving Arts Center. $28-$38. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 5-6 Ballet Ensemble of Texas, under the direction of Joffrey alum Lisa Slagle, presents the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. $25-$30. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 5-6 Rowlett Dance Academy presents its 14th annual production of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. $10. Call 972-475-8269 or visit www.rowlettdanceacademy.com

Dec. 5-6 Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $20-$25. Call 972-744-4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 5-6 North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. $30. Visit www.nutcrackertickets.com

Dec. 5-10 New York City Ballet brings George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker to the big screen in various movies across the DFW Metroplex. $16-$18 Adult. Visit www.fathomevent.com 

Dec. 11-27 Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Call 877-828-9200 or visit www.texasballettheater.org

Dec. 11-13 Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $22-$42. Call 972-744-4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 12 Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Irving Arts Center. $25-$30. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 12-13 Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton. $11-$36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit www.festivalballet.net

Dec. 19-20 Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker with guest artists Rie Ichikawa (Boston Ballet) and Zack Grubbs (Cincinnati Ballet) at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $15-$50. Call 972-744-4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 19-20 The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday classic with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra at the Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen. $15-$25. Visit www.allencivicballet.org/nutracker

Dec. 19 The Art Ballet Academy presents The Nutcracker at Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield. $16. Visit www.abacademy.com

Dec. 22-23 Collin County Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Plano Symphony Orchestra at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $22-$77. Call 972-744-4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

 

OTHER HOLIDAY DANCE

(including non-traditional takes on The Nutcracker)

Nov. 19 Avant Chamber Ballet returns to White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake with its holiday production of Nutcracker: Short and Suite. This one-act Nutcracker presented by Apex Arts League includes new choreography by Katie Cooper and music by Tchaikovsky. $15-$20. Call 800-481-8914 or visit www.apex-arts.org

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Avant Chamber Ballet will present Holiday Celebration. Photo: Mark Kitaoka

Nov. 27-29 The Dallas Symphony Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky’s complete The Nutcracker (no dancers), and featuring the Children’s Chorus of Collin County, at the Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas. Call 214-692-0203 or visit www.mydso.com

Nov. 27-Dec. 27 MBS Productions presents its annual hit The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents a Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, in which a church has to do a last minute substitution of its dancers for The Nutcracker, at the Addison Theatre Centre’s Studio Theatre. $29. Call 214-477-4942 or visit www.mbsproductions.net

Dec. 6 8&1 Dance Company closes its third season with In The Spirit, featuring live music and heart-warming chorography at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visit www.8and1dance.com 

Dec. 6 Dallas Youth Ballet presents a Rockefeller Christmas Spectacular at Dallas City Performance Hall with special guest Arron Scott from American Ballet Theatre. $20-$75. Visitwww.parkcitiesstudios.com

Dec. 10 Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday celebration at Dallas City Performance Hall incudes Katie Cooper’s Sleigh Ride and Nutcracker: Short and Suite. $20-$30. Visit www.ticketdfw.com

Dec. 11-12 Bruce Wood Dance Project presents a Christmas Cabaret benefit with Broadway stars Aaron Lazar, Liz Callaway and Joseph Thalken, at the BWDP Studio, 3630 Harry Hines Boulevard, Suite 36, Dallas. $350-$1,000. Call 214-428-2263 or visit www.brucewooddance.org

Dec. 12 Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. The program includes Winter Wonderland, The Princess and the Magical Christmas Star, O Holy Night and A Cool Yule. $8 for daytime performances and $12-$25 for the evening performance. Call 817-738-7915 or visit www.balletconcerto.com

Dec. 12 Contemporary Ballet Dallas offers their spin on Charles Dickens’ classic tale with Boogie Woogie Christmas Carol at McFarlin Memorial Auditorium on the Southern Methodist University campus. $18-$30. Visitwww.contemporaryballetdallas.com

Dec. 18 Texas Ballet Theater brings The Nutty Nutcracker, its PG-13 spoof of The Nutcracker, to Bass Performance Hall for one night only. $40-250. Call 877.828.9200 or visit www.texasballettheater.org

Dec. 18-19 Epiphany DanceArts celebrates the holiday season with its production of Tis the Season at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $17-$27. Call 972-744-4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 19 Broads & Panties presents Nearly Naked Nutcracker: A Burlesque Ballet featuring aerial performances, circus arts, ballet and burlesque at Trees in Deep Ellum. $20-$44. Visit www.treesdallas.com

Dec. 19-20 Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Margo Jones Performance Hall at Texas Woman’s University, Denton. $15-25. Call 940-383-2623 or visit www.dentoncitycontemporary.org

Dec. 19-20 ImPULSE Dance Project celebrates the season with Snow at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater. Program includes works by Artistic Director Anastasia Waters and company members Krista Langford and Kristin Daniels. $17. Visit www.impusedanceproject.org

This list was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

 

Review: Dallas Repertoire Ballet’s The Nutcracker

DASHING DANCE

DRB company member Hannah Morris as Clara in this year's production of The Nutcracker. Photo: Kim Voorhies
DRB company member Hannah Morris as Clara in this year’s production of The Nutcracker. Photo: Kim Voorhies

At the Eisemann Center, Dallas Repertoire Ballet delivers one of the most exuberant and technically spectacular Nutcracker productions of the season.

Richardson — Having seen multiple Nutcracker performances already this season critics sometimes feel like they are on autopilot when sitting in the audience for another show. Ballet companies have to find new ways to freshen up their Nutcracker without deviating too far from the ballet’s renowned origins. Dallas Repertoire Ballet (DRB) managed to accomplish this Friday evening with a fast-paced and choreographically exceptional Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. Artistic Director Megan Willsey-Buckland and choreographers Kathy Willsey and Audrey Rusher Mitts made some bold choices when it came to story development and prominent dance numbers such as Snow and the Waltz of the Flowers that kept the audience, including moi, engaged for the duration of the show.

The dashing pace of the show was set from the get-go. The curtains opened up to reveal the inside of the Stahlbaum’s house where Mr. Stahlbaum, his wife, daughter Clara and son Fitz are preparing for their annual Christmas party. The stage is simply set with a grandfather clock, some chairs and a sofa. The vastness of the space is quickly forgotten as 50 plus children and adults swarm on stage to greet the party hosts. These introductions, which usually take minutes in many productions, took mere seconds in DRB’s version leaving the dancers with more time to show off their bountiful technique, stamina and individual artistry. Clara (Hannah Morris) and her friends excelled in their allegro numbers, performing the repetitive petite jumps and traveling steps with ease. Chaos was avoided with practiced entrances and exits and visually pleasing traveling patterns. The choreographers took a risk by minimizing the grand gesturing that is typical, replacing it with more dance sequences, a decision that in this case worked thanks to the commitment of the adults and younger dancers. The older party goers displayed their intermediate waltzing skills while Morris wowed us multiple times with her far-reaching lines and unrestrained enthusiasm.

The drama of the battle scene was enhanced by the fog machines and the tour de force that is Albert Drake in the role of the Nutcracker Prince. Drake’s background with the Bruce Wood Dance Project added dimension to the otherwise typically flat princely character. Drake also did not hold back when it came to the military-precision arm motions and repetitive toe touches to the delights of viewers. Not wanting to waste such a talent, Drake also makes an appearance in the Snow scene with a pas de deux with Morris which, while quite lovely, did take some of the shine away from the Snow Queen (Ashlee Gilchrist) and Bruce Wood Dance Project member Harry Feril as the Snow King. Feril effortlessly manipulated Gilchrist through the various body shapes and over the head lifts that are staple points of this particular scene. While Gilchrist’s upper body appeared stiff during certain lifts, exhaling while executing movement will enrich her performance. Choreographer Megan Willsey-Buckland’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ background shone through the Snow Corps’ sharp arm placements and various movement contagions.

Photo: Kim Voorhies
Photo: Kim Voorhies

The first half’s steady pace and eclectic display of skills continued in the second half of the show. Feril pulled double duty as the Cavalier to Grace Ludwinski’s Sugar Plum Fairy. Ludwinski’s slight frame made it easy for Feril to execute the press up lifts and various running leaps sprinkled throughout the grande pas de deux. Ludwinski proved herself capable of handling the exacting partner work as well as the fast foot work and exploding turn sequences in her solo section. Feril’s low center of gravity added extra excitement to his leaps and tour en l’airs to the knee. Other standouts in the second half include Lynnae Hodges’ wicked fast pirouettes in Spanish Chocolate, Bella Rusli’s unnatural body contortions in Arabian Coffee and the whole cast in the Waltz of the Flowers. The intricate pointe work of the soloists mixed with the various rhythmic patterns of the wreath holders transformed the stage into one big beautiful moving picture.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

2014 Nutcracker Nuttiness

Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel
Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel

No matter where you live there is a Nutcracker performance waiting for you. Here’s a list of North Texas Nuts, plus other holiday dance.

From the big-budget dance companies such as Texas Ballet Theater and Moscow Ballet to the smaller, community-based companies, there is an enchanting Nutcracker performance for everyone to see. For those of you living North of Dallas there is the Allen Civic Ballet, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton and LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville. For audiences in the Richardson and Plano area the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts is hosting multiple Nutcracker performances the next two months, including Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet and Tuzer Ballet. For Garland residents there is Dallas Ballet Company’s annual production at the Granville Arts Center and for Irving patrons Ballet Ensembles of Texas’ showing of the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. If you prefer live music, check out LakeCities Ballet Theatre, Allen Civic Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker productions. For those looking for something a little different there’s 8&1 Dance Company’s In The Spirit and Ballet Concerto’s Holiday Special.

Full list and ticket information below:

Nov. 21-22

Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets $40-50. Call 817.689.7310 or visitwww.balletfrontier.org

Nov. 22-23

Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets $28-88. Call 800.745.3000 or visit www.tickmaster.com

Nov. 22

Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $35-40 Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 26

The Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano screen Getting to The Nutcracker, a documentary about what it takes to produce a production of the Nut, at 2 p.m. in both locations. www.angelikafilmcenter.com

Nov. 28-30

Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $12-100. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 28-Dec. 27

Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker, with the same extravagant sets and effects that we saw last year. Call 877.828.9200 or visit http://www.texasballettheater.org

  • Nov. 28-Dec.7 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
  • Dec. 12-27 at Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth
  • The Nutty Nutcracker is Dec. 19 at Bass Performance Hall

    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

Nov. 29-30

LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. Tickets: $20-45. Call 972.317.7987 or visitwww.lakecitiesballet.org

Dec. 5-7

Dallas Ballet Company celebrates its 28th annual performance of The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, TX. Tickets: $23-24. Call 972.205.2790 or visit www.garlandarts.com

Dec. 6-7

North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $30. Visit www.nutcrackertickets.com

Dec. 6-7

Ballet Ensemble of Texas presents the holiday classic with guest artist Dallas Blagg and Gabriela Gonzalez from Tulsa Ballet at the Irving Arts Center. Tickets: $25-30. Call 972.252.2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 6-7

Rowlett Dance Academy presents its version of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. Tickets $10. Call 972.475.8269 or visit www.rowlettdanceacademy.com

Dec. 6-7

Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

Dec. 12-14

Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 13-14

Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton, TX. Tickets: $11-36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit www.festivalballet.net

Dec. 20-21

Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 20-21

The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday favorite with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen TX. Tickets: $15-30. Visitwww.allencivicballet.org/nutcracker

Dec. 22-23

Colin County Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Plano Symphony Orchestra at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $32-52. Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Other Holiday Dance

Dec. 5-7

Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Krum High School Performance Center in Krum, TX. Tickets: $12-18. Visit www.dentondance.com

Dec. 7

8&1 Dance Company’s annual In The Spirit holiday celebration at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visitwww.8and1dance.com

Dec. 12

Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special, with school performances at 10:30a.m. and 12:15p.m., and public performances at 7p.m. at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $5-20. Call 817.738.7915 or visitwww.balletconcerto.com

This list was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

A Look Back on 2013

Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia
Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia

2013 was full of big surprises for me both personally and professionally.

First, my husband and I welcomed our first child, a baby girl named Evelyn, on June 1. (She already has perfect turn out.) My husband and I are also celebrating our fifth year as Dallas residents. This may not mean much to some people, but this is the longest we have ever stayed in once place. And in those five years we got married, got a dog (Cleveland), brought a house and had a baby. My, we have been busy!

Professionally, I am celebrating my fifth year as a dance instructor at Amanda Dalton School of Dance. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I also can’t believe I have been working on my blog for three years and in that time have written more than 150 posts. I would love to surpass that number in 2014. I am also fortunate to have an outlet for my dance writing with TheaterJones.com and WorldArtsToday.com.

I truly am grateful to live in a city that values the arts. New dance companies like Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Avant Chamber Ballet were welcomed with opened arms by audiences this past year while established dance companies like Texas Ballet Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre continued to push boundaries and strengthen the art form.

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
Dallas Repertoire Ballet company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

But the city wouldn’t be the cultural mecca that it is today without the smaller local companies. My Nutcracker Roundup this year included more than 20 Nutcracker and Holiday performances. I was fortunate enough to review 5 of them.

LakeCities Ballet Theatre stood out for its use of live music; Texas Ballet Theater for its special effects and strong male dancers; Ballet Frontier of Texas for its simplicity; Ballet Ensemble of Texas for its pristine pointe work and uniformity; and Dallas Repertoire Ballet for its creative choreography and  musicality.

I did take a break from all the nuttiness by going to see Epiphany DanceArts’ heartfelt Christmas Memories production and Bruce Wood’s cabaret-inspired holiday show entitled Mistletoe Magic.

Another aspect of my job is interviewing choreographers from touring dance companies. I played it cool when I interviewed the legendary Paul Taylor and the new Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle back in April, but the dancer in me was shaking in her dance shoes.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Company B. Photo: Rex C. Curry
Paul Taylor Dance Company in Company B. Photo: Rex C. Curry

I also got to talk with Complexions’ co-founder Desmond Richardson who came to Dallas in March for TITAS’ highly anticipated Command Performance Gala. I even got to go backstage after the performance to meet Desmond face to face. (Getting back stage at the Winspear was like getting into the Pentagon. Even with an escort we had to go through multiple check points. It was totally awesome.)

For the first time ever dance dominated TITAS’ performance lineup. Companies including Stephen Petronio, Doug Varone, The Joffrey Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Grupo Corpo and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater all got their chance to perform in the state of the art Winspear Opera House.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Violet Kid. Photo by Juileta Cervantes
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Violet Kid. Photo by Juileta Cervantes

After reflecting on all the great performances from the last year I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!

And a big thank you to all my readers out there! I love writing for you and I plan to do a lot more of it. 🙂

Happy New Year!!! Keep Dancing!!!

Review: The Nutcracker, Dallas Repertoire Ballet

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

Winter Wonders 

Dallas Repertoire Ballet delivers a technically crisp and visually compelling rendition of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann.

Richardson — The weather was much more cooperative than last weekend for the Dallas Repertoire Ballet’s (DRB) annual production of The Nutcracker Friday evening at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. Creative dance numbers laced with challenging technique and visually pleasing props were all highlights of last year’s Nutcracker, and DRB didn’t disappoint with this year’s performance.

Choreographers Kathy Willsey, Megan Willsey Buckland and Audrey Rusher Mitts have that opening party scene down to a science. They replaced a lot of the gesturing typically seen (lots of hugging and air kisses) with more dancing. When Clara and her friends curtsy to one another they do it with a grande battementand soutenu turn. Pique arabesques and fast bourrees were executed with an exactness and finesse befitting a professional. It was also nice to see so many dancers working on pointe. If you got it, flaunt it and these young ladies have the foot strength and dexterity.

Most Claras dance very little in the first act and sit for most of the second act, but that was not the case with company member Alexandra Politz, age 17. Her natural grace and polished pointe work were featured throughout the show, including some lovely pas de deuxs with the Nutcracker Prince (guest artist Eric Coudron). While Politz’s maturity made her fascination with the toy Nutcracker a little less believable, it didn’t stop her from shining on stage.

The choreographers took the more comedic route with the battle scene and added a twist with the Rat Pack. The diva, the bookworm, the grandfather and the troublemaker drew laughs from the audience as they fought alongside the Rat King (Emma Voorhies). Kudos to whoever made the decision to have the Rat King and the Rat Pack perform in pointe shoes. In other productions the rats typically shuffle along in oversized costumes, but DRB again played to its strengths and used clean pointe work to keep the fight scene from becoming convoluted.

Executive Director Kathy Willsey also took a risk using one of her own dancers for the Snow Queen role (often played by guest artist professionals), which in the end paid off. Mackenzie Voorhies was a vision in white as she fluttered across the stage in a series ofbourrees, sliding into an arabesque hold with the help of her Snow King (guest artist David Freeland). The pair were well-matched in terms of build and prowess. They ate up the stage in their turning sequences and executed lift after lift without pause. While Voorhies sometimes tightened her shoulders in the press up lifts, there was an undeniable ethereal quality about her.

The snow dance was absolutely exquisite. No less than 30 dancers flew across the stage creating some of the most intricate weaving and circling formations I have seen in this dance. The little sparkling pompoms the dancers carried enhanced the moments when only the wrists were moving, resembling snow falling.

The refined, uniformed dancing continued in the second act where Clara and her Prince are welcomed to the Land of Snow by the Sugar Plum Fairy (company member Megan Schonberg) and Cavalier (guest artist Jamal White). Don’t mistake Schonberg’s lithe shape for fragility. Her pointe work was sharp and deliberate and she could turn on a dime. Even though White’s extensions didn’t quite reach past his toes, he has amazing charisma and was a very intuitive partner. If Schonberg started to lean a little to the left in her multiplepirouettes, White simply readjusted his hold.

All the cultural dances in the second act were fun and exciting. Hannah Morris gave a spunky performance in the Spanish Chocolate number while Bella Rusli showed off her controlled jumps in the Chinese Tea section. Grace Ludwinski displayed her flexibility in a series of backbends and behind the head leg extensions with the assistance of David Freeland in the Arabian dance. Eric Coudron took on the role of Russian Baba and performed a number of nimble toe touches much to the audiences delight.

Mackenzie Voorhies as the Dew Drop Fairy (right). Photo: Courtesy of DRB
Mackenzie Voorhies as the Dew Drop Fairy (right). Photo: Courtesy of DRB

But none of these solo performances would have been complete without the help of the dance corps. Most noteworthy were the Arabian corps’ slowly descending splits, the Reed Pipers’ manipulations with the ribbons, the candy canes spinning hula hoops and, of course, the gorgeous arching wreaths in the Waltz of the Flowers.

Like the snow scene, the Waltz of the Flowers was dreamy yet dynamic. Soft turning balances were followed by lighting quick piqueturns. Politz and Coudron performed a quick yet energetic pas de deux before Schonberg and White entered for the grande pas deux. Props to Schonberg for handling those slow arabesque turns and over the shoulder pitches without hesitation. There was some tricky choreography in that section and both she and White handled it with ease.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Review: The Nutcracker, Ballet Ensemble of Texas

Going Nuts!

Ballet Ensemble of Texas delivers delicious dancing and sumptuous surprises in its production ofThe Nutcracker

Irving — Oh, the weather outside was definitely frightful, but thankfully Ballet Ensemble of Texas’ (BET) presentation of The Nutcracker was worth the perilous drive that many performers and audience members surely braved. The company gave an engaging performance on Saturday to a packed house at the Irving Arts Center, complete with little girls in cute mice costumes, an abundance of young male dancers, a poetic Waltz of the Flowers and a dynamite grande pas de deux by guest artists Michele Gifford and Shea Johnson.

The production began at the Silberhaus’ annual Christmas party where their daughter Clara receives her beloved Nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer (Allan Kinzie). While the stage dressing was a little bare (a couch, chair and clock were the only props) it did provide the children and adult party guests with plenty of space to dance. Choreographers Lisa Slagle (also BET director), Allan Kinzie, Tammie Reinsch and Allison D’Auteuil Whitfield kept the party scene moving with basic yet visually pleasing ballet steps for the youngsters and clean pointe work for Clara (Kristen Wright) and the life-size dolls (Alise Newman, Victoria Pardo and Jimena Flores-Sanchez).

Even though she kept the same facial expression for most of performance, Wright is the most technically proficient Clara I have seen this season. Her strong, supple feet enabled her to execute multiple turns and pique arabesque holds with pizazz. Newcomer to BET William Sheriff was a pleasant surprise as the Nutcracker Prince with his great control over his long, limber body; as he becomes more mindful of his feet, Sheriff will be one to watch for.

The battle scene had everything you’d expect, from well-rehearsed sword play, bright lighting and smoke machines to twenty or so little dancers scampering across the stage in cute mice costumes. The action was quick-moving and transitioned smoothly into the snow scene. Snow Queen Natalie Tsay’s pointe work was a little clunky in some parts, but she made up for it with her captivating stage presence. Her Snow King (Blaine Quinn) was a solid and trustworthy partner. He executed those tricky traveling lifts with grace and confidence. The Snowflakes really stole the scene with their breezy movement, uniformed arm and leg placements and exquisite technique.

The second act displayed more of the company’s versatility especially in the Arabian, Chinese, Hungarian and Russian sections. Melissa Anderson, Kendall Glasgow and Sam Chadick showed they could handle the slower, more controlled movements required in the Arabian dance. Anderson and Glasgow also got to display their flexibility with their alternating floor splits. It was a challenge for power jumper Adam Rech to control himself in the Chinese dance, but he did it and even managed to get his heels down when he landed. While the timing was off in some parts of the Hungarian number it did show the company’s understanding of folk dancing which includes a lot of unified stomping and clapping.

Now, what BET has that a other companies don’t is a strong group of young male dancers. This was made abundantly clear in the crowd pleasing Russian dance. Roman Mejia, Aldrin Vendt, Akihiro Yoshimoto, Adam Phillips and Kei Jay Takahashi pulled off an exhilarating number filled with double tour en l’airs, turns in second and round houses.

Like the snow scene, the Waltz of the Flowers was truly poetic. The dancers simply skimmed across the floor in a series of bourrees. The choreography was packed with constant direction changes and opposing head and arm movements; giving off the illusion that we were watching moving snapshots. Masumi Yoshimoto (Dew Drop Fairy) and demi-soloists Abby Granlund, Breanne Granlund, Ripley Mayfield and Yuki Takahashi gave solid and soulful performances.

The highlight of the show was the technically flawless performance Michele Gifford (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Shea Johnson (Cavalier) gave in the grande pas de deux. Gifford and Johnson nailed every turning arabesque hold and difficult shoulder lift without a qualm. Gifford’s unending extensions and Johnson’s boundless amounts of energy in his turning grande jete section earned applause from the audience. It was a great night for both these seasoned professionals.

This was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Review: The Nutcracker, Texas Ballet Theater

Courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater
Courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater

High-Flying Wows in Holiday Classic!

Texas Ballet Theater’s annual production of The Nutcracker is filled with theatrical comedy, classical ballet, and entertaining special effects not often seen in most renditions of this holiday favorite.

The company goes all out with gorgeous backdrops, large moving props, smoke machines, and a flying sleigh at their Dallas home, the state-of-the-art Winspear Opera House (their Fort Worth home is Bass Performance Hall).

The opening party scene started promising at the Dec. 1 show. Two staircases flanking on the stage brought dimension and provided performers with a larger space to dance. Though it lacked any challenging dance technique –– there was a lot of walking and gesturing –– the slapstick comedy, injected by choreographer (and the company’s artistic director) Ben Stevenson, was a hit as it is each season. A clumsy grandfather, for example, a hard of hearing grandmother, and prankster brother got the biggest roars.

As an angelic-looking Clara, dancer Aoi Takahashi, dressed in a white flowing nightgown, had a lovely youthful air about her and competent pointe work.  Drake Humphreys looked a bit too old to play the annoying younger brother, but his enthusiasm and strong technique was undeniable.

The most commanding presence at party scene was Carl Coomer as Dr. Drosselmeyer. Only a consummate pro like Coomer can draw in the audience with the slightest flick of his wrist as he hands Clara her Nutcracker.

Courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater
Courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater

The story and dancing gain momentum in the raucous battle scene where the men displayed strength and stamina as the Nutcracker’s soldiers. And there’s plenty of action. The sword fighting, between the Nutcracker (Adam Boreland) and the Rat King (Paul Adams), was enhanced by the dim lighting and menacing black and red figures in shapes of rats and nutcrackers on the front stage scrim.

After the height of the action, where Clara killed the Rat King with her shoe, the scrim rose revealing a calm and serene background of silvery blue and a snow-encrusted slope hidden underneath a thin layer of mist. The atmosphere perfectly ushered in the magical snow scene where the Snow Queen (Carolyn Judson) and Snow King (Lucas Priolo) appear through the misty slope.

Judson, a spritely technician, attacked every pique turn and arabesquehold with grace and vigor. Priolo, a true gentleman, offered Judson his arm with poise and easily lifted her over his head during the romantic grande pas de deux. It was a pleasure seeing Priolo perform one of his signature roles with the company one last time before he retires at the end of this season in 2014. The light and airy movement of the snowflakes (advanced students with the company’s ballet school) was lovely as well.

The second act had more of the fabulous technique and artistry viewers have come to expect from the company. Betsy McBride and Alexander Kotelenets were a dynamic duo as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. McBride’s willowy frame made her lines appear unending. She accomplished the fast footwork and difficult turning section in the grande pas de deuxwith swan-like style. Kotelenets’ Apollo-like features matched his prowess as he ate up the stage in his turning grande jete section.

The acrobatic partnering of Simon Wexler and Philip Slocki in the Chinese section and their drop in from the ceiling on two swings won loud cheers. Boreland as the Gopak received a round of applause for his otherworldly grande jetes. High energy in both of these sections, unfortunately, outshined the slower, yet still beautifully executed Arabian section.

The Waltz of the Flowers contained some visually pleasing formation changes and picture perfect moments as the flowers took turns leaping across the stage in wispy pink tutus. The romantic grandepas de deux by Judson and Priolo was a memorable way to end the show.

This review is also posted on WorldArtsToday.com.

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.