Fort Worth — Curtains open to a glittering Christmas tree, giddy children in colorful gowns, and merriment amongst the joyous parents. The elaborate set bursts with color and introduces the audience to the iconic world of The Nutcracker ballet. Under the Artistic Direction of Chung-Lin Tseng, Ballet Frontier presented an enchanting interpretation of a classic holiday favorite. In addition to Ballet Frontier’s company members, youth company members, and youth company trainees, guest dancers from world-renowned companies such as the American Ballet Theater, Texas Ballet Theater, and the Oklahoma City Ballet.
At the Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. at the William Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, this explosion of talent filled the stage in both physical number and energy.
Act One exuded the organized chaos of a traditional Christmas gathering—to which the audience members related by chuckling at the children’s peppy games and nodding to the parents who chased them across the stage. In a flowing white dress, Clara stands out amongst the rest of the children with her graceful glides and spirited leaps from one side of the stage to the next. Her delicate turns and eager arm gestures lead her to the mysterious and convincing Drosselmeyer and his magical dancing dolls. Clara’s buoyant piques travel her and her precious Nutcracker around her guests until the spirited duet ends in tragedy—a broken Nutcracker.
A looming Mouse King threatens the innocence of the Christmas scene with his undulating body and quick-footed steps. He summons his mouse army just in time for the toy soldiers to come to life and march sharply to Clara’s defense. Dripping with action, frolicking mice bursts through, eager to cause trouble, as soldiers with rifles motion to charge using sharp port-de-bras and rigid marching patterns. Glistening snow falls from the ceiling once the soldiers claim victory and a parade of Snowfairies circle and disperse to make way for their new guests of honor. As Snow Queen, company member Elizabeth Villarreal embodies the delicacies of a snowfall in her weightless quality and lightness in her swirling feet. She nearly floats en pointe as she leads the siblings into the next phase of their adventure.
The Kingdom of Sweets opens Act Two as the crowd murmurs in awe of the giant pastry backdrops, sparkling candies, and a glittering throne. The lovely Sugar Plum Fairy, performed by guest artist Katie Boren of ABT, enters the stage in a pink stunning tutu and is accompanied by her Cavalier Chung-Lin Tseng who is outfitted in luminous white from head to toe. Their pas de deux highlights Boren’s endless leg extensions and powerful muscle control. Chung-Lin Tseng shines through his solid support and massive leaps. Suddenly the stage came to life with an outpouring of guests: feisty Spanish dancers with flashy smiles and sharp wrist flicks, slithering Arabian characters wit twisting hips and sultry lifts, Chinese dancers with spry hops and angular pointed fingers, a group of Russians in flaming red skirts and colossal leaps. Even humor graced the stage with the dainty Shepherdess and the crazed Wolf. Roars of laughter from the audience exploded as the Shepherdess’ skillful charms dispelled his antics.
Bon-Bons and Dewdrops ushered in a flurry of Flowers to conclude the Sugar Plum Fairy’s grand gesture. Swirling pastels swept the stage in romantic tutus. The Flowers wove in and out of sustained extensions and graceful floor patterns leaving the stage alive with color. Suddenly the peaceful beauty of the Waltz of the Flowers was broken by a flooding of characters who wished to bid their honored guests goodbye. The enormity of the cast was evidenced in the Finale as each group of dancers skipped, fluttered, and jumped their farewells until the curtain set on this explosion of Christmas magic. Ballet Frontier successfully produced a lavish Christmas classic with unique twists and turns, stunning technique, and comedic elements that left the audience smiling and applauding for more.