Paul Parish reviews the opening night of San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker in DanceView Times:
Happy as Snow: A Joyous Nutcracker Opening
The first act is long, but it has a powerful sweep to it. The party scene swells and subsides, the kids get their presents and get over-stimulated, the Grandfather Dance rounds things off, the guests go home good and tired, and Clara can't sleep, comes looking for the Nutcracker, dozes off, the tree grows spectacularly (very good tree). The battle scene has been kitsched up so it's rather thick, but Clara (Jessica Lester) stood up to the Mouse King bravely. From there things pick up decidedly.
Christensen's Snow scene is superlative. The change of scene is an unveiling, the pas de deux is brilliant and thrilling—huge overhead lifts that traverse the stage, with travelling terre-a-terre steps that sweep round it. It's a magnificent change of pace to see movement on such a grand scale by people who can use all that space. Christensen's greatest gift was his musicality, and after that came an unerring sense of when to move beneath yourself and when to travel. What makes the snow pas so CLEAN is the way the dancers scour the stage. The two dancers use ALL the space, and then, when the music speeds up, the storm of snowflakes whirls and scurries and eddies in an enormously satisfying way. The dancers spring and dart and careen around themselves at top speed, they come whistling in in little pas de basques bent over, brushing the floor with their hands, and fly out of that with lacy footwork that reminds me of Ashton's: VERY fast accurate footwork that's quite, quite different from Balanchine's style. And snowflakes are falling from the flies so thick it's like visible laughter, and then things calm down, the snow queen (Julie Diana) sweeps round the stage gently in turns on half-toe, whirls in a supported pirouette, opens out into attitude and extends her arms as if to offer the entire proceedings to us all as the ballet's Christmas present to the community. Diana is entirely capable of making a grand gesture like this—indeed, it matched Jim Sohm's at the beginning of the act, when (as Drosselmeyer, standing in front of a forecurtain) he doffed his hat to us all and invited us to come inside and see the show.