Having seen multiple Nutcrackers already this Holiday season, it's apparent that a production's success truly lies in the details. Dallas Repertoire Ballet proved this on Friday with its technically pleasing and visually stunning 20th annual production of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.
From the scenery and lighting to the streamlined storytelling and choreography, it raised the bar in terms of how a Nutcracker production should look and run.
The opening party scene was orchestrated with precision and creativity. Instead of having the 50 performers (little kids to adults) dancing in the cliché small groups and circle formations, choreographers Kathy Willsey and Megan Willsey-Buckland took a risk with a large children's group number, including baby doll props and intricate weaving patterns. The movement didn't just include the standard chasse in a circle and bourrée into straight lines. The dancers' quick tempo pointe work and challenging pirouette and pique combinations kept the scene upbeat and entertaining.
It was also nice to see a more mature dancer (Alexandra Politz) perform the role of Clara. I preferred 16-year-old Politz's confident, strong dancing over the softer style that is typically seen in this role. Politz's maturity and personal artistry also took her partnership with the Nutcracker Prince (Albert Drake) to another level. The couple executed some tricky over-the-head lifts and multiple assisted pirouettes without a quiver. Drake, a native Texan and a member of the Bruce Wood Dance Project, gave a striking and personable performance as the Nutcracker Prince. Don't let his small stature fool you; this young man ate up the stage with his front cabrioles and jumps in second.
Another great partnership was that between the Snow Queen (Mackenzie Voorhies) and the Snow King (Harry Feril.) Feril, also a member of the Bruce Wood Dance Project, is everything you'd expect in a partner; strong, agile and charismatic. He performed one lift after another without pause. Voorhies' petite, lean frame probably helped a little. The group number with the Snowflakes and Icicles was also well-rehearsed and included some beautiful picture moments.
The show's smooth pace and engaging performances continued in the second half. The Arabian Coffee number (Grace Ludwinski and Jamal White) was a crowd pleaser with its contorted lifts and Ludwinski's behind-the-head leg extensions and abnormal backbends. The Reed Pipes number had some beautiful ribbon work and delicate choreography while the Chinese Tea number was crisp and sassy. The grande ps de deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy (Megan Schonberg) and Cavalier (Harry Feril) was slightly off balance yet still impactful. Feril's commanding presence seemed to overpower Schonberg's fragility in some instances, but all that is forgotten the minute he lifted her in the air.
Dallas Repertoire Ballet's acute attention to detail in terms of technique, choreography, storytelling and production value made for a captivating performance.
Repeat performances today at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Eisemann Center.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com