Fort Worth — Springy movement, fluttering arms and falling snow combined with Igor Tchaikovsky’s driving composition are a few of the reasons why the Waltz of the Snowflakes is one of the most exciting and timeless dances in any dance company’s Nutcracker production. Ballet Frontier of Texas’ Snow Scene in its annual production of The Nutcracker Saturday afternoon at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth was no exception. Tony Tucci’s understated lighting arrangements and Anne Jones’s vibrant set designs only enhanced viewers’ feelings of youthful wonder.
The appeal of the Waltz of the Snowflakes lies in its contractions regarding the movement and mood. Choreographers like BFT’s Chung-Lin Tseng and Roy Tobias are assigned the task of creating spritely, intricate pointe work that accentuates Tchaikovsky’s dynamic score without losing the serene quality of the dance. Tseng’s clean, lyrical style was well-suited for this particular section. Dressed in knee-length wispy, white tutus and jeweled tops, the more advanced members of BFT’s company were the epitome of grace and elegance. They skimmed the floor in a series of sauté, pas de chat leaps across the stage. Soft arms were matched with sharp, simple foot work. BFT Principals Marina Goshko and Andrey Prikhodko did a commendable job in their roles as Snow King and Queen. Prikhodko’s powerful jetes and travelling cabrioles highlighted his incredibly long body. And while Goshko gave a strong performance, it lacked some of the sparkle that company member Mickayla Carr exuded in the role as part of Collin County Ballet Theatre’s Ballet Fete Esprit de Danse at the Eisemann Center back in September.
The opening Christmas Party scene was more organized than in previous years. It’s nearly impossible to get 50 children and adults to stand in straight lines and start on the right foot, but the dancers managed to do it. And any missteps or timing issues were overlooked next to the performers’ poignant narratives. In keeping with its kid-friendly theme, the first act was heavy on illusion and character development and light on technically-challenging choreography, which suited the audience just fine. Cayce Diggs played the role of Clara well with her genuine sweet disposition and tender movement choices. Michael Clark’s mysterious, yet clumsy portrayal of Drosselmeyer kept the children in the audience giggling as did the mice decked out in fur costumes with disproportioned mouse heads. Each year Andrew Coffey gains more confidence in his role of the Nutcracker Prince. While at times he lost tension in his arms and feet, his athletic ability and princely poise continues to grow.
The steady pace of the first half continued in the second half. The entrances and exits of the various groups were done efficiently and there was no delay with musical cues. Here the dancers got to show off their well-rounded training and performance chops. Mickayla Carr displayed her feisty side in the Spanish dance with multiple hip swivels and skirt swishes while travelling across the floor on pointe. The Arabian couple (Jacey Thompson and Texas Ballet Theater’s Paul Adams) added to the dance’s mystique with tense body poses, long embraces and effortless shoulder lifts. The Chinese dancers’ (Haley Falls, Maria Howard and Alysha Johnson) movements lacked some of the punch dictated by the music, but their stiff arm positions and charming smiles never faltered. BFT is one of the few companies that includes the Shepherdess (Carli Petri) in its Nutcracker production. A smart decision, as the playful antics of the wolf (Grayson Pollard) trying to catch Petri’s sheep was a memorable moment. Texas Ballet Theater’s Robin Bangert dazzled as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her brash confidence and impeccable control makes her a very exciting performer to watch. She attacks every movement whether a subtle arm lift or double pirouette with zeal. Paired with Dan Westfield’s trusting partner skills and virtuoso jumps, the power duo was simply riveting to watch.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com