Oklahoma City Balletâ€™s production of â€œThe Nutcracker,â€ a beloved part of the holiday season, is a comforting mix of old and new. In his rendering of the familiar tale, choreographer and artistic director Robert Mills takes the audience on a journey that begins in the Stahlbaum home and travels through a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes to the magical Kingdom of Sweets. Performed to the music of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic conducted by Joel Levine, the ballet glowed with holiday cheer in the Civic Center Music Hall, which was decorated throughout with garlands of greenery shining with tiny lights. Opening nightâ€™s Clara was Skylar Singer, who charmed the audience with her smile and lovely arabesques. Claraâ€™s brother Fritz was portrayed by Courtney Thompson, who captured just the right blend of onstage naughtiness and good dancing. From the littlest angels to the mice dancing en pointe, all of the children did an excellent job, chasseing around the stage and approaching each step with perfect posture and the utmost concentration. The more technical dancing in the ballet begins with the Snow scene. The Snow King and Queen were Miki Kawamura and Ronnie Underwood. Kawamura was a warm and gracious Snow Queen, enthralling the audience with her delicacy of movement. The Snow scene culminated with a wonderful blizzard of falling snow and tutu-wearing snowflakes leaping and pirouetting around the stage. The corps de ballet in the Snow scene, as well in the Waltz of the Flowers, danced beautifully together, showcasing Millsâ€™ talent for choreographing groups of dancers. The second act variations were all great fun. Millsâ€™ new choreography for the Arabian dance worked especially well. Done as a pas de deux by Darli Iakovleva and Anton Iakovlev, the new choreography was more sensual than before and showcased Iakovlevaâ€™s great flexibility. As always, the Russian variation was a great crowd pleaser. Josh Crespo and Jerry Pines soared and spun across the stage with their leaps and turns. The Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier for the evening were Stephanie Foraker Pitts and David Barocio. Pitts and Barocio did a fine job, including very nice fouettes by Pitts, though they seemed a little distant on stage rather than sparkling with welcome. The ballet ended with the nice ambiguity of Clara waking up in her own home, but still holding the glittering wand given to her by the Sugar Plum Fairy. Was it all a dream or truly a magical experience? â€œThe Nutcrackerâ€ is many peopleâ€™s first exposure to ballet. As such, it introduces them not only to a classical art form but to a sense of community, the sharing of a seasonal ritual that brings us together, if even just for the duration of the performance. Itâ€™s also about creating a bridge of continuity through the art of ballet for children and adults, dancers and audience members, between our contemporary world, and the world of an art form whose roots go all the way back to Renaissance Italy. Oklahoma City Balletâ€™s â€œNutcrackerâ€ is highly recommended. â€” Kathleen RedwineComments
â€œThe Nutcrackerâ€â€¢When: 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. â€¢Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker. â€¢Information: 848-8637 or www.okcballet.com.