After more than two decades how does a company keep its The Nutcracker fresh? Dallas Ballet Company did it with witty pantomime, clever choreography for the younger dancers and amazingly proficient guest artists at its Saturday afternoon performance at the Granville Arts Center in Garland.
The performance started off slow, but picked up momentum halfway through the opening party scene. The performers could have spent less time with the pantomiming in the very beginning and more time waltzing or, in the children's case, balletic line dancing.
It is at this Christmas Eve party where Clara (Caroline Collins) receives a nutcracker doll from her uncle Drosselmeyer (Randolph McKee). Collins is the epitome of innocence with her delicate pointe work and soft, expressive arms. When she goes to sleep that night she dreams of a land where the Sugar Plum Fairy, Arabian Coffee, Mother Ginger and her Nutcracker Prince reside. But first her Prince must defeat the evil Mouse King and his minions.
The battle scene was well thought out. While the choreography for the young mice was not difficult, it was supplemented with intricate weaving patterns and formations changes. Throw in a mouse waving a white flag and being dragged off by his buddies and the scene was a success.
Now, in terms of technique, the Snow Queen (Audrey Lawrence) ended the first half on a high note. Powerful yet supple, Lawrence can pirouette for days and finish without a wobble. She is a sight to behold and definitely someone to watch out for in the future. Antuan Byers held his own as the Snow King, but it was difficult to take your eyes off Lawrence.
The second act was quicker paced and contained more technically challenging choreography. Guest Artists Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Porretta from Pacific Northwest Ballet didn't disappoint as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. The couple's partnering was effortless and Nakamura's winged-toe extensions were unreal. Porretta was a powerhouse when it came to cabriole jumps and over the head lifts.
The larger group numbers such as the Dance of the Reed Pipes and Waltz of the Flowers Corps de Ballet needed some more cleaning, but the soloists in these groupings made up for any misplaced arms or pointe work. Derrick Smith took time away from Dallas Black Dance Theatre to perform with Alizah Wilson as the Waltz of the Flowers Leads. He was a strong and capable partner with a presence to match.
After a final jovial group dance Clara says her goodbyes and awakens from her dream still clutching her beloved nutcracker doll.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com.