The Civic Center Music Hall was decked out in holiday finery, with lighted garlands festooning the balconies and an enormous Christmas tree in the lobby, making a perfect setting for the opening night of Oklahoma City Ballet's “The Nutcracker.”
Choreographed by the company's artistic director Robert Mills and accompanied by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, conducted by maestro Joel Levine, “The Nutcracker” sparkled with beautiful dancing and good cheer, proving once again that OKC Ballet is getting stronger and stronger.
In Mills' production, the role of Clara is danced by one of the company dancers rather than a child. On opening night, DaYoung Jung as Clara captivated the audience with her brilliant dancing and acting. Switching from the simpler dances with the children in the first act party scene to a lovely pas de deux with Yui Sato during the snow scene, Jung was engaging throughout. She looked like she was having fun during the entire ballet.
All the children did an excellent job and were well rehearsed, from the tiniest white mouse to the more advanced angels dancing en pointe.
The Land of Snow is always a “Nutcracker” highlight, and this year was no exception, featuring a new, more challenging choreography for the 14 corps de ballet snowflakes. Dancing against a glistening snowy backdrop, their technique and timing were impeccable.
The second act opened with a burst of color in the Kingdom of Sweets, where Clara was welcomed by the Sugar Plum Fairy, danced by Miki Kawamura, and her Cavalier, danced by Alvin Tovstogray. Kawamura made an elegant and gracious Sugar Plum Fairy, seeming warmer and more comfortable in the role this year. Tovstogray was all that a Cavalier should be, strong and chivalrous as a partner, with clean and effortless beats in his solo variation.
Each of the second act dances glowed with energy and enthusiasm, from the glittering Spanish Chocolate danced by Seth Bradley with Carissa Churchill and Sarah Jane Crespo, to the sultry Arabian Coffee danced by Ezlimar Dortolina and Ryan Piper. The lyrical Waltz of the Flowers featured another lovely pas de deux by Jung and Sato.
A ballet company's growth can be measured not only by the choice of more difficult ballets to perform, but also by the annual progress of a perennial classic like “The Nutcracker.” From adults who have seen “The Nutcracker” every year since they were young to children dancing in the lobby after attending the ballet for the first time, “The Nutcracker” is a must-see ballet.
— Kathleen Redwine