‘Nutcracker’ an en­dur­ing and en­dear­ing tra­di­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - By Claire Chris­tine Spera Spe­cial to the Amer­i­canS­tates­man

There’s some­thing about tra­di­tion in the hol­i­day sea­son. To defy the tra­di­tions we have par­tic­i­pated in and up­held with our fam­ily and friends seems, well, down­right sac­ri­lege.

Bal­let Austin’s “The Nutcracker,” as the long­est-run­ning “Nutcracker” in Texas at 50 years, is an in­te­gral part of many fam­i­lies’ tra­di­tions, not just in Austin, but in the state. The plethora of dolled-up chil­dren at­tend­ing the per­for­mance, the oohs and ahs coming from the au­di­ence through­out the two-act bal­let, and the an­i­mated ap­plause Sun­day af­ter­noon at the Long Cen­ter proved that the com­pany’s ren­di­tion, with orig­i­nal chore­og­ra­phy by artis­tic di­rec­tor Stephen Mills, is here to stay.

Given Texas win­ters are really more like ev­ery­one else’s sum­mers, the snowy for­est scene en route to the court of the Sugar Plum Fairy was par­tic­u­larly en­tranc­ing. The vi­sion of flur­ry­ing snowflakes — both of the white-fall­ing-from-thesky and hu­man va­ri­eties — in­spired gasps of awe from the au­di­ence. As al­ways, the Austin Sym­phony Orches­tra’s live in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Tchaikovsky’s fa­mous score only made the scene all the more won­drous as the corps de bal­let moved in canon across the stage, tulle skirts float­ing to echo their move­ment.

In the sec­ond act, Clara (Bal­let Austin Academy’s Leah Gas­ton, who danced beau­ti­fully in the first act’s party scene) and her Nutcracker Prince (An­drew Mankin) ar­rive in the Land of Sweets. Among the high­lights was the bois­ter­ous Rus­sian dance in which Ian J. Bethany, along with Pre­ston An­drew Pat­ter­son and Kody Jauron, per­formed a se­ries of con­sec­u­tive jumps that melded into twirls, all at a boom­ing pace. The ap­plause matched the per­form­ers’ en­ergy.

In the Waltz of the Flow­ers num­ber, Michelle Thompson led her flow­ers flaw­lessly. She demon­strated tech­ni­cal skill in her bal­ances and triple pirou­ettes, all the while ra­di­at­ing joy. She was a plea­sure to watch.

One of Bal­let Austin’s “Nutcracker” tra­di­tions in­volves the role of Mother Gin­ger, a woman who sits perched atop a gi­gan­tic skirt, out from un­der which lit­tle bon­bons scurry. This role is played by a dif­fer­ent pub­licly rec­og­niz­able fig­ure at each show; Sun­day, the role was played by Jenna Bush Hager, who com­mented in a pre-show an­nounce­ment that, at 31 years old, she was ex­cited to per­form in her first “Nutcracker.”

Her sen­ti­ment echoes many bud­ding bal­leri­nas’ feel­ings about “The Nutcracker” — that it is, above all else, an op­por­tu­nity for chil­dren to per­form. It’s a tra­di­tion worth con­tin­u­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.