Dallas — Are you in the holiday spirit yet? The retail world sure hopes you are. Christmas music has been playing since mid-November, festive greens and reds started invading shelves in August, and stores seem to start the shopping season earlier each year. If marketing and consumerism fatigue has already reached its peak already a month before the gift-giving date, then why not refresh that spirit with a delightful holiday show?
Glittering and grand, Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker descended on AT&T Performing Arts Center over Thanksgiving weekend and continues for one more, before dashing, dancing, and prancing over to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall for the remainder of the run.
It’s the story of Clara Stahlbaum (Charis Alimanova) enjoying her family’s annual Christmas party and receiving a nutcracker doll from Drosselmeyer (Carl Coomer). Her dream that night begins with a battle between the King Rat (Alexander Kotelenets) and Nutcracker Doll (Drake Humphreys), with their respective armies, and culminates with a walk through the Kingdom of Snow and on to the Land of Sweets, where she’s entertained by a plethora of dancers.
With a dazzling array of Nuts to choose from in DFW over the course of the season, artistic director Ben Stevenson presents the most eye-catching of all, and it’s no surprise why. His reputation and years of experience as master storyteller prove most useful in delivering a clear, solid holiday tradition.
The party scene hypes up individual characters like no other. Even the party guests have their own personalities and time to shine, rather than being part of the scenery. The moments between the three elderly guests always prove hilarious, with Amanda Fairweather garnering the most laughs as Old Auntie. Alimanova and Dustin Geradine (as Clara’s brother Fritz) manage to find the right amount of childish joy amidst their more technical maneuvers, and Coomer once again delivers a mysterious but charming Drosselmeyer.
Another element that makes this show pop is the art of the reveal. Wire-work throughout brings unexpected joys. Set design by Eduardo Sicango and lighting by Tony Tucci make each new scene a sight to behold. The stage turns into an elegant 19th century home with staircases, and molded doorframes, while a grand sweep of a white cloth transports the audience to a detailed winter wonderland for the snow scene of Act I.
Jiyan Dai’s brilliant smile and elegant flair as the Snow Prince match the glitz and wonderment. His duet with the regal Nicole Von Enck as the Snow Queen includes effortless leaps and lifts, with seemingly perfect precision. Minor technical difficulties hindered the charming ending of the act, a light shower of “snow” on the audience.
Act II keeps the amusement going as Clara and her transformed Nutcracker Prince (Andre Silva) marvel at a ravishing Spanish variation and an always exciting Chinese segment featuring weapon-wielding Drake Humphreys and Joamanuel Velazquez engaging in multiple leaps and acrobatics. The grand entrance of the Arabian couple (danced again by Alexander Kotelenets and Katelyn Clenaghan) doesn’t overshadow their sumptuous partnering and Clenaghan’s enviable flexibility.
The mood switches to quaint and charming for the Mirliton pas de trois with David Schrenk, Hannah Wood, and Samantha Pille. Excellent attention to detail and perfect synchronization equally match the brilliance of Schrenk’s allegro. Philip Slocki defys gravity with endless energy in the Russian Gopak segment, while a feminine Dustin Geradine wrangles children as Madame Bonbonaire.
Paige Nyman returns as the Lead Flower partnered by Brett Young. Their choreography comes off brilliantly, with a lovely ease, but Young facial expressions (sometimes looking pained) are inconsistent compared to Nyman.
An exquisite, picturesque grand pas de deux has Carolyn Judson in the role that seems to suite her well, the Sugar Plum Fairy. Andre Silva as usual astounds with his leaps and suspended pirouettes. Soft, delicate, and playful, there’s a reason it’s the pinnacle of a ballet that Texas Ballet Theater has down to a science.