There's nothing like Tchaikovsky, a Kingdom of Sweets and a Nutcracker Prince to get you into the holiday spirit. Collin County Ballet Theatre's 12th annual production of The Nutcracker Friday evening featured all this and glitzy costumes, cheeky choreography and some standout performances by guest artists and a few company members.
CCBT's collaboration with the Plano Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor Leslie B. Dunner, was enthusiastically received and acoustically well-suited for the Hill Performance Hall at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.
The tale begins at a Christmas Eve party at the home of Mayor Silberhaus where our heroine Clara (Tiffany Lee) receives a nutcracker doll from her kooky uncle Drosselmeyer (Robert Stewart). Later that night while Clara is sleeping she dreams of a land of snow and sweets where her Nutcracker Prince and other magical creatures come to life.
The opening party scene of The Nutcracker sets the tone for the whole production, so it's vital to keep it entertaining and quick-paced. Artistic Directors Kirt and Linda Hathaway did both. Each dance sequence was about a minute and the performers transitioned smoothly from one dance to the next.
The children's choreography was cute and included basic ballet steps likes balances, chasses and sautés on soft shoe. Lee's (Clara) pointe work was delicate and precise, but it was Kade Cummings' (Fritz, Clara's Brother) charisma and poise that stole the scene.
It was nice to see some familiar faces in Act 1 including Ruben Gerding as the Nutcracker Prince and Chung-Lin Tseng as the Snow King. Gerding is perfectly suited for the princely roles. He's charming and graceful and takes good care of his female partners. Tseng ate up the stage with his grande jetes and double tour en l'airs. Against a gray background Tseng and the Snow Queen (Ashton Leonard) gave an angelic performance. The couple's controlled partnering and effortless lifts aided in covering up some of the timing issues among the Snowflake dancers.
Act 2 introduced us to the Kingdom of Sweets and the beloved Sugar Plum Fairy (Melissa Zoebisch) and Cavalier (Alexandru Glusacov). Maybe it was opening night jitters that had Zoebisch stumbling out of double pirouettes on pointe, but you can't deny her impeccable epaulement (body positions) and leg extensions. Zoebisch's confidence lifted when she partnered with Glusacov. Together they were rock steady and executed the Grand Pas de Deux beautifully.
The second Act also contained some fine dancing from the Chinese Tea (Michaela Raley, Kade Cummings and Sarah Smith) and the Trepak (Jose Checca). The audience loved Checca's over-rotated toe touches and gravity defying leaps. The Merlitons (Jessi Gorman, Alexis Ludwig, Madeline McMillin and Courtney Miller) were also well rehearsed and didn't falter in their fouette turns on pointe.
Even with a few minor missteps Collin County Ballet Theatre still pulled off an extremely entertaining and quick-moving performance that children of all ages can enjoy.
Repeat performances Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. at the Eisemann Center; and Dec. 22 at 3 and 7 p.m. at Heritage High School in Frisco.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com