You can always bet the scenes in the second half of The Nutcracker that require highly technical and challenging dancing are going to be thrilling when it’s the Texas Ballet Theater, especially with artistic director Ben Stevenson’s choreography.
This year, again, they don’t disappoint.
But what really sets TBT’s production apart, once again, is that long, opening scene at the Stahlbaums’, where Clara, Fritz and their parents have guests that are unrulier that not. With each viewing, there’s always something new to see.
In the first minute or so, Stevenson has partygoers making their way to the house, and a group of them are rolling a wooden barrel of liquor. This Nutcracker kegger is more for the adults to engage in shenanigans, with far fewer children than you see in The Nut at pre-professional companies.
The grandparents and Old Auntie get tipsy early and scold others for drunkenness. Some guests meddle, some flirt. It’s like watching ballet dancers influenced by Keystone Cops or Buster Keaton.
Don’t worry, there’s more spectacle to see — and not just in the various flying scenes: first the angel tree-topper, then a sleigh that carries Clara (Nicole Von Enck in the performance reviewed) to the Kingdom of Sweets, and then the magic carpet that ushers in the pair in the Arabian variation (Allisyn Hsieh Caro and Riley Moyano); or in the stunning scenic design and backdrops (designed for Ballet Florida by Eduardo Sicangco, given to TBT several years ago).
As the sultry, focused dancers of the Arabian variation, Caro and Moyano are highlights in the second-act variations. David Schrenk and Marlen Alimanov have a blast in the Chinese, as they tumble with each other via a fighting stick and broadsword. And Andre Silva, in the Gopak number, keeps the audience gasping.
In the Stahlbaum scene, Kelly Kristen Farris and Joamanuel Velazquez as the Columbine and Harlequin dolls are a marvel of movement with robotic control.
Paige Nyman gives the Sugar Plum Fairy a teensy bit of an edge but is still light and airy, while Brett Young makes for a noble Nutcracker Prince. As the Snow Queen and Prince, Katelyn Chenaghan and Carl Coomer are both divine.
The company alternates roles frequently throughout its run at Bass Hall. All performances are dances to recorded music.
Go to TBT’s Nutcracker for the best ballet dancing in the area, but you’ll leave still laughing at the party scene, and wishing every Christmas party you attend were that entertaining.
- Through Dec. 24
- Bass Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth
- 877-828-9200; http://www.texasballettheater.org