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Tis the Season for Nutcracker

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This is the second year of Ballet Austin's new Nutcracker, with Stephen Mills' choreography and an entirely new production and sets. This is a classic Nutcracker, with no startling innovations or radical departures -- there is the party, and Herr Drosselmeyer with nephew in tow, the fight of the Nutcracker and Clara with the rat king, and the kingdom of the Sweets. The prologue of families walking through the neighborhood on their way to the evening's festivities is omitted and the overture is played through by the orchestra. The standout dancers at the 12/31 evening performance were Brittany Strickland and James Fuller as Spanish (they sizzled in their roles), and Ian Bethany, Donald Davison, and Kevin Murdock-Waters as Russian. The corps of snow flakes at the end of Act I were suitably graceful and "snowy". Paul Michael Bloodgood, on the other hand, seemed distinctly uncomfortable in a white wig in the French dance, although he was fine as the pater familias in the party scene of Act I.

I am feeling increasingly conflicted about Ballet Austin. While they do some interesting things (Light, for one; the Magic Flute, for another), I can't help but think as I watch the choreography that Mills is putting together pieces that allow his dancers to look competent in their roles, knowing that at present he has no dancers capable of a bravura performance. The dancing of the Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act II, for example, lacked a great deal in both grace and strength (and it seems that even if you can't have both, you should be able to manage one or the other). As I think I mentioned in my earlier review of Agon, the best that can be said for most of the performances is that they are "serviceable". unsure.png

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