Though the weather outside was far from frightful, the Civic Center was absolutely delightful for opening night of Oklahoma City Ballet's “The Nutcracker.” The balconies were festooned with lighted garland as the Philharmonic began playing Tchaikovsky's familiar overture to a nearly full house.
This year's production seemed fresh and exciting, a true accomplishment for a ballet that is performed each year. Clara, danced by company member Amanda Herd, led the way in bringing the audience into an enchanted world of giant mice, growing Christmas trees and a nutcracker who comes to life.
Though technically miles ahead of the children she was dancing with in the first act, Herd did a marvelous job of performing with them and capturing the innocent joys of childhood. All of the children who performed throughout the ballet were very well rehearsed and danced with tremendous enthusiasm, especially the tiny scene-stealing white mouse in the first act.
Herd and Nutcracker Prince Tye Love, performed a challenging pas de deux in the Land of Snow, in place of the traditional Snow King and Queen. Despite a couple of small bobbles, they swept across the stage as if they were floating in the breeze.
The highlight of the scene, however, was the corps de ballet as the Snowflakes.
Wearing sparkling white classical tutus, they swirled around the stage as snow fell, seeming to create the glittering wonderland with their dancing.
In the second act Clara was welcomed to the Land of Sweets by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, danced by new company members Da Young Jung and Alvin Tovstogray. Performing solo variations that are often done with the Grand Pas de Deux later in the act, Jung and Tovstogray showcased their technical excellence.
One might have wished for a bit more warmth, but their dancing was exquisite. A highlight of their pas de deux was the dancing in the coda. Jung wowed the audience with a series of traveling fouettes while Tovstogray's leaps and turns covered the stage.
Outstanding in the second act variations were Yui Sato, Stephanie Foraker Pitts and Miki Kawamura in Spanish Chocolate. It was a pleasure to see them so relaxed in that particular style.
Also of note were Arianna Lawson, Leah Burge and Eri Nikai in the difficult and beautiful French Marzipan variation.
Herd and Love performed another pas de deux in the Waltz of the Flowers. Love's strong stage presence and gallant partnering provided a perfect counterpoint to Herd's delicate and youthful movement quality. Again, brava to the ladies of the corps de ballet as Flowers.
With “The Nutcracker” becoming a multigenerational tradition in Oklahoma City, it is exhilarating to see Oklahoma City Ballet continue to grow and improve, both with new dancers and with exciting new ballets.
— Kathleen Redwine