Richardson — The charm of The Nutcracker is that no production is exactly alike. Tuzer Ballet’s version, performed Saturday night at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, took a few interesting turns.
It takes a while at the Stahlbaum’s Christmas Eve party to warm up, what with Fritz (12-year-old Nicholas Ady) displaying not an iota of mischief and Herr Drosselmeier (Tanju Tuzer) too regal to be intimidating. Once the mystery guest Frau Rattenhausen and daughter arrive, things pick up. The little one stands close to her mother, but piqued by curiosity, inserts herself into the midst of adults, children, teenaged girls and cadets alike. Frau Rattenhausen is the last to leave and shocks Drosselmeier when the long tail of a rat drops from her bustle.
Guests gone, mice and rats terrorize Marie (in some productions called Clara), and the most aggressive one is Frau Rattenhausen’s adorable white mouse. The tiny eight-year-old Ashlee Sullivan takes on her role with gusto: scampering, pouncing, and dashing about. You can’t take your eyes off her.
An eerie, ominous glow casts strange images when spiffy Toy Soldiers battle it out with small, often frightened mice and more menacing rats. There is no Rat King to take on the Nutcracker, but instead Frau Rattenhausen transforms into a glamorous Queen Rat (Jasmine de Lacruz-Simpson). Marie (21-year-old Rebecca Grace Moore) does not fling her fateful slipper to save the Nutcracker, but he quickly dispatches Queen Rat with a dreadful stab.
After that turmoil, the Snowy Pine Forest, with no sets or backdrops to offer atmosphere, opens with a serene pas de deux danced by guest artists Rie Ichikawa (Boston Ballet) and Pavel Gurevich (Suzanne Farrell Ballet). She moves with the grace of flowing water, nicely partnered by Gurevich. When the Snowflakes dart in, Marie joins them, swirling and leaping.
In Act II, fairies embrace Marie in a woodland setting and she slides under them as they guide her to the magical Land of the Sweets. Drosselmeier and the Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier (Ichikawa and Gurevich) greet Marie and the Nutcracker Prince.
To the delight of Marie, three spirited Spanish dancers in red and deep chartreuse sweep the stage with a sideways tilt. In quick succession, there is a rather tame dance of the Reed Pipes (also known as the Mirlitons), a supple Arabian (Marie Lawrence) beautifully partnered by a strong Travis Morrison; a delicate Chinese where Mert Erdin leapfrogs over Sarah Berglund while four little ones jump with arms akimbo. No Mother Ginger this time, but her 12 children hold wreaths as they hop, reforming and weaving in and out. Russian Cossacks (Claude Alexander III and Keon Nickie) turn out to be firecrackers. As in just about every divertissement Marie joins in, putting her in the center of the story and giving Ms. Moore the opportunity to shine.
Tuzer choreographed the bulk of the ballet, but wisely kept intact the 1892 Petipa version of the pivotal grand pas de deux. As the Sugar Plum Fairy, Ichikawa moves with a serene and delicate air, holding balances for a very long time without support. Several times her Cavalier smoothly rotates her in arabesque, creating an image not unlike that of a windup music box, displaying every elegant angle. Gurevich’s easy leaps make a nice contrast to Ichikawa’s quick and precise beats. The only thing lacking in Ichikawa’s interpretation is the expression of radiant charm. The pas de deux comes to a climax with a daring fish dive and a last dramatic lift.
While not the most brilliant of Nutcrackers, students and guest artists brought it vividly to life.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.