Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker is a stunning production with choreography exquisite enough to bring a Christmas dream to life and accentuate Tchaikovsky’s melodies. With athleticism and grace set to music, a story is magnificently told without words. Every performance makes use of 200 exotic costumes and there are three different casts of 42 dancers.
Texas Ballet Theater opened their 2015-2016 season with Dracula at Winspear Opera House in September. They are following it up with Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a holiday tradition, in the company’s Fort Worth home at Bass Performance Hall. Starting tonight, there are 17 performances through the rest of the month.
Tchaikovsky premiered The Nutcracker with an opera in St. Petersburg in 1892. Seven decades later, it became the bread and butter of many ballet companies in North America, and it’s been that way ever since.
Many takes on this annual production start to gather momentum near the end of the first act. The Nutcracker starts with a Christmas Eve party, but choreographer Stevenson adds gestures to the opening scene that convey the humor of a younger brother’s pranks as well as the slapstick comedy of a clumsy grandparent. The room also draws the viewer in with a three-dimensional stage of staircases, wooden ceiling beams, a towering Christmas tree and earth-tone colors.
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Details from the party — like a rat and a wooden nutcracker — return amplified and animated in the dream sequence. The battle scene balances intensity with humor reminiscent of a silent film, especially when The Nutcracker has his sword fight with the Rat King. In a dimly lit scene, the rat and nutcracker soldiers gather to watch the duel. After Clara saves The Nutcracker by killing the Rat King with her shoe, the rats scatter and the dark backdrop rises.
Behind it is a peaceful blue slope covered in moonlit snow in a forest glade. Snow Queen and Snow King make their entrance and a convincing onstage snowstorm starts. The nutcracker doll becomes a prince. It is time to journey through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets.
The Nutcracker keeps bringing people back because Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s late Romantic period score is some of the most recognizable and beloved classical music ever made. It creates a world of childhood enchantment and continues to inspire choreographers to reimagine.
The Nutcracker opens Friday, December 11, at Bass Performance Hall (525 Commerce St., Fort Worth) and runs through December 27. For tickets, visit www.texasballettheater.org or call 877-828-9200, option 1.