Irving — Classical ballets have a few things in common: pantomime gestures, elaborate sets and costumes, and magical storylines. Not only do these fairytale plots take us to fanciful places with curious characters, but they remind audiences to embrace their childlike wonder. The Nutcracker Ballet is no exception. While December brings an abundance of performances to the DFW area from professional artists and companies, there’s something special about viewing a well-produced ballet composed of young, local talent — which is exactly what I found in Ballet Ensemble of Texas’ show.
The unassuming backdrop and lack of abounding physical props focused all eyes on the darling Clara (Anna Dang, Sunday casting) and the bustling party guests spinning around her. The sheer number of parents, party children, and special guests on stage presented the challenge of creating efficient yet engaging spatial arrangements—an area in which Ballet Ensemble of Texas thrives. Without overcommitted expressions and constant group shifts, it’s easy for the traditional party scene of Act I to become repetitive and uninteresting. However, artistic director Thom Clower (who also plays an enigmatic and persuasive Drosselmeyer) managed to portray a winsome scene that enchanted viewers through the precise formations, comical exchanges, and endearing family dynamics.
One wee dancer stole the show (and the hearts of everyone in the audience) in his jaunty skips and enthusiastic arm swings. More than once, viewers found themselves chuckling as he followed the older boys in rambunctious shuffles—exuding the kind of pure, childish joy that’s hard to replicate. Its small, endearing touches like this that even explosive, international companies can’t mirror in all their professionalism.
During the post-party battle sequence, we become better acquainted with the Ben Nemmers as the Nutcracker Prince (Sunday casting) and his flawless feet.
Another highlight from this act centered on Eden Lim’s meticulous turns in her Snow Queen role. Although her partnering with Snow King Joseph Dang needed a bit more maturity and trust, it’s clear that both leads show signs of promise.
Entering into the Land of Sweets, the picturesque samplings from faraway lands is a Nutcracker fan favorite—both for their magical qualities and their technically ambitious steps. Amongst the typical Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, Clowns, and other characters, the shining stars of this act appeared in the form of the Arabian trio. Matching Tchaikovsky’s mysterious sounds, the dancers intertwined themselves together in striking holds—only to unwind and slink away effortlessly.
Once again, some elements of these divertissements desperately need an update to fit today’s world — especially in the drawn on mustaches of the Chinese dancers.
One pleasant surprise arose in the Waltz of the Flowers when ballerinas in gorgeous amber tutus softly pricked their toes with fairylike tenderness. Recalling the lively staging of the opening act, viewers were reminded of the company’s strength in organizing captivating visuals.
Through the much anticipated grande pas de deux, Pearl Smith and Aldrin Vendt (guest artists of Ballet Arkansas) provided a satisfying finish to the evening. With a clear talent for turning, Smith breezed in and out of complicated sequences as Vendt grazed her body with supportive touches. Moving into their back-and-forth solos, his time to shine commenced with unfaltering turns in second — Vendt maintaining the elegance and strength of his character the entire time.