Changes visible in Ballet Academy of Texas’ production of “The Nutcracker”, but still a hit

By Tuulia Koponen
Business/Public Relations Manager

The last time I had gone to see my former dance studio, The Ballet Academy of Texas, put on its production of “The Nutcracker” was when I was in the eighth grade and danced the role of a Hungarian.

Even then, I had only seen Act I of the production for I danced in Act II. Therefore, the last time I had gone to see the full production was prior to my dancing career when my mother took me to see it with a family friend.

My, have things changed.

Guests gather in Carpenter Hall of the Irving Arts Center prior to the Ballet Academy of Texas' production of The Nutcracker. The Ballet Academy of Texas is directed by Lisa Slagle and has been ever since the studio first opened its doors. Photo by Tuulia Koponen.

Guests gather in Carpenter Hall of the Irving Arts Center to witness the Ballet Academy of Texas’ production of The Nutcracker. The Ballet Academy of Texas is directed by Lisa Slagle and has been ever since the studio first opened its doors. Photo by Tuulia Koponen.

Some for the better, however. It was nice to see every family that takes part in the party scene be a part of the prologue and walk upon the snow-clad street that leads to the Silberhaus’ house where the party is held.

Seeing Drosselmeyer (Allan Kinzie), who plays the role of Clara (Pary Vendt) and Fritz’s (Joseph Dang) godfather, with a pack of gifts, looking visibly mysterious in the prologue scene was also a nice touch and added to the peculiar, dark demeanor of his character.

However, having rag dolls as opposed to gingerbread be a part of the magical entertainment Drosselmeyer brings to the party was disappointing. My heart lurched for the poor girls that had to dance the role for they looked dejected and in need of serious TLC compared to the harlequins they danced alongside.

The snow scene was a tad rushed, but, like the little girl behind me said as the Snow Queen (Yuki Takahashi) was thrust onto the snow king’s shoulder (Aldrin Vendt), there was no better way to explain it but “wow”. Takahashi looked beautiful and danced the part exquisitely.

I was not a fan of the changes made to the Arabian dance and was at the verge of cringing as Sam Chadick would dance with either Katie Cheng or Ana Denton who played the leads and have the other lead somehow weave through their movements. It was really odd.

The party scene was just as dramatic as always with the maids fighting for the attention and affection of the butler, the excitement of the children receiving gifts, Drosselmeyer’s frightening entrance, Clara being terribly distraught upon the destruction of her nutcracker and Drosselmeyer magically fixing it as well as the magical entertainment of dolls, harlequins and the nutcracker.

The smoke in the battle scene between the mice and the soldiers was a bit too much, and I could not help but let out a small chuckle about just how much smoke developed. Nevertheless, it was visibly entertaining, and I could recall just how fun it was to play the role of a mouse and be overly dramatic with the Mouse King passing away and fearing the soldiers you along with your compadres had to fight.

The addition of cupids to the dance of the angels, that was added on the last time I was a part of the production, was still saddening. The two girls on pointe shoes with arrows in their hands takes away from what is typically the sweetest part of The Nutcracker with the young, young girls doing their very best to remember their movements in their very first dance in the production.

What really got me and shocked me though was that my favorite part of the performance – the dance of the sugar plum fairy – was cut short. Gabriella Gonzalez, who danced the part courtesy of Tulsa Ballet, was still stunning and proved why she is a professional ballerina, however, I could not help but be disappointed that the epic finale of the sugar plum fairy dance was cut short.

It hurt. But, taking into account that the production consisted of a very young cast and that the performance I attended was last night at 6 p.m. in the Irving Arts Center, I can understand having to cut it short as well as the changes, whether I like them or not, that were made to the production.

I was still able to identify the exact costume I wore when I played the role of a clown and the sweet, young girls that danced the part were lovely and reminded me of my first performance in “The Nutcracker” and the love for ballet I developed because of it. I appreciated the dewdrop fairy (Jimena Florez-Sanchez) taking her time with her movements and making every transition smooth and effortless. She was absolutely beautiful.

Of course, I was filled with excitement watching the Hungarian dance. I was instantly reminded of my last production and clapping alongside everyone else when the time came brought back the most beautiful memories.

A few members of the crowd did stand at the end to give a standing ovation and rightfully so. Most of the crowd that gathers for the production are those who have been a part of the production before or are family and friends of those who are performing.

With that being said, seeing the production the whole way through from a spectator’s point of view is much different than dancing the part on stage. I can point out the tiniest of errors and technical issues, however, likewise knowing just how hard it is to put on a production like this and to dance on the tips of your toes in pointe shoes all I can say is;

The Ballet Academy of Texas’ production of “The Nutcracker” will always be a delight for those who want to bask in the beauty that is ballet and this particular type, especially during the most wonderful time of year. And if the the sugar plum fairy being thrust onto the cavalier’s (Dallas Blagg) shoulder during the most beautiful and epic part of their dance, let alone the music for the ballet, does not give you goosebumps, you are wrong.

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