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“Nutcracker” Sparkles Center Stage as Begins 40th Season

By Sherry Londe
December 10, 2009 Issue

Nothing 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 Sweets.

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 away.

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