says the holidays like a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. The
time-honored Tchaikovsky score, storybook sets and those dedicated
dancers who carry us off with lighter-than-air magic. The E.T.A. Hoffmann
tale sprung to life once again in the Northwest Florida Ballet’s
outstanding production at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center last month.
With captivating charm, the classic story portrays every child’s
fantasy of the perfect world, where goodness and sweet dreams prevail.
At a Christmas party—given
by Mayor and Frau Silverhaus and their children Clara and Fritz—we
are introduced to the character Herr Drosselmeyer, expertly played
by NWF Ballet artistic director Todd Eric Allen. Drosselmeyer bridges
the gap between the ordinary and extraordinary with his curious
powers, bringing dolls to life and later transporting Clara and
her Nutcracker Prince to the Kingdom of Snow and the Kingdom of
The school’s professional
training is revealed in the confident ability of the young performers
as the well-rehearsed mice and soldiers and in their variations
in Act II. Enchanted by sugary charm, audiences delighted in the
delicate young Clara danced by Gemma Garlisch, the flashy quickness
of Spanish danced by Patricia Stout, and the ballonne executed by
Jerod Zerbe as the Nutcracker Prince.
When ballet technique
looks simple and a performance seems effortless, we are observing
the zenith of the art form. Accomplished faculty member Jennifer
Jones is elegant, self-assured and poised as Snow Queen and Arabian.
Her partner Sean Hilton, an audience favorite, is dependable and
steadfast. Both guests Katia Garza and Andres Estevez dazzle us
with excellent technical aplomb and timing. Local soloists Amanda
Wiley as the feisty Dew Drop Fairy and Russian Variation performer
Andrei Kisselev enjoyed some well-deserved oohs and ahhs. The combined
efforts of choreographers Todd Eric Allen, Sharon Allen, Bernadette
Clements Sims and Winthrop Corey have created a delectable production
that audiences will surely wish to return to year after year.
As the curtains close,
we coast on a fantasy afterglow until schedules and traffic pull
us back into real time. Audiences need performances like this one
from our Northwest Florida Ballet to remind us that a long-ago dreamland
where snow queens and fairies reign is only the price of a ticket