It’s that most wonderful time of the year!
The Nutcracker ballet brings more warmth during the holidays than any family tradition…with its giant growing tree, dancing candies, and waltzing flowers. Even in Texas, it’s easy to step into a winter wonderland and imagine we are back in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s production of the Nutcracker was complete with gorgeous scenery, exquisite dancing and Tchaikovsky’s glorious score played live by the Lewisville Lake Symphony’s orchestra lead by Adron Ming.
The audience was graciously invited into the home of Herr and Frau Stahlbaum and their two children, Clara and Fritz. We see family and friends (young and old) but the most mysterious guest is the magician, Uncle Drosselmeyer (Kenn Wells) who brings the most intriguing quality to the party.
The Nutcracker traditionally opens right after Thanksgiving. That’s when LakeCities Ballet Theatre performed its marvellous production to a sold-out crowd. The audience was filled with visions of the SugarPlum fairy and the sounds of the Lewisville Orchestra. All who attended, shared in the delight and innocence that the Nutcracker brings…true enchantment.
LakeCities battle scene is serious combat between the Nutcracker soldiers and eighteen not-so-blind mice…one of them was my daughter. These little mice meant business…carrying off the wounded in stretchers. My eight-year-old little mouse said, “I love being a mouse because I get to bonk a soldier on the head with a fake gun. It’s pretty fun to be bad…a lot different than being an angel last year!”
Children in the audience really love seeing other kids on stage because they can identify with the characters. The Nutcracker is all about the children. These children clearly know how to give a stellar performance and dance with confidence. Artistic director, Kelly Lannin does an incredible job working with her students. It’s easy to see how much she cares about them. Before the show began, Lannin came backstage to say a prayer with her students that they would be safe, have fun and not get hurt. The children look at their teacher, Mrs. Lannin, with the same kind of expression that Clara has for the Nutcracker…love.
The snow scene is one of the most stunning moments, with lovely clusters of ballerina snowflakes fluttering about in a pool of wintery white. The off-stage vocalizations sung by a snow choir dressed in Russian attire put the audience in a dream world. LakeCities Snow Queen , Mackenna Pieper, transported the audience to a snowy winter wonderland with her energy, talent and spellbinding presence. My daughter won a pair of Pieper’s pointe shoes…they are treasured!
The journey of Clara (Julie Fenske) and her charming Nutcracker prince (Jack Wolff) continued on to the “Land of Sweets” where guest artists Sarah Lane (American Ballet Theatre) and Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet) brought grandeur to the stage. Both Fenske and Wolff had a youthful, wide-eyed innocence that kept the audience in wonderment. When Clara arrived in the second act the audience was delighted with more terrific partnering. Ali Honchell and Ruben Gerding were snappy with just the right amount of spice as “Spanish Chocolate”, Andre Harrigton soared in “Russian Baba,” Carley Denton and Ruben Gerding kept things festive and fun in “Chinese Tea” but it was Faith Jones and Shannon Beacham in “Arabian Coffee” that made you want to take hot yoga in hopes that you would be able to bend it like Jones. The two expertly intertwined in a sensuous duet that left you wanting more.
I have a little crush on Daniel Ulbricht! His double tour en l’air made my heart skip a beat and I couldn’t help but gasp out loud. He is a dynamic athlete who can fly higher than Peter Pan. Lane and Ulbricht were an ideal pair and danced naturally together. Ulbricht, my all time favorite Cavalier, held Lane in the air just a little longer than you imagine possible to make her look like she was covered in Tinkerbell’s fairy dust and could float down oh so gently. Lane’s graceful warmth and Ulbricht’s studliness and suberb partnering gave LakeCities Nutcracker extra appeal down to every arabesque and pirouette.
There’s no better ballet than The Nutcracker to bring the family closer together. Most people come to watch a certain dancer but end up sighing with happiness and feeling like a kid again. We tend to want to recreate our best memories with our family and friends so that we might recapture those memorable moments. The Nutcracker ballet is one of the most cherished family traditions and gives us those warm feelings all over again.
Photo credit: Nancy Loch Photography