For the first time in years, Texas Ballet Theater’s opening performance of the traditional seasonal favorite The Nutcracker last Friday didn’t pack the house. Only about half of the 2,100 seats were occupied.

Also for the first time in a while, the company didn’t employ an orchestra. Both shortcomings could be attributed to the economic recession. But no doubt the mismanagement that has plagued TBT over the past few months is also to blame.
Despite all that, based on the Friday performance, the company is artistically stronger than ever.

The production unfolded with seamless ease from one brilliantly danced sequence to the next. Artistic director Ben Stevenson struck gold last season when he brought in principal ballerina Leticia Oliveira, whose near flawless technique, effortless adagio work, and extraordinary balance on pointe are steeped in classical style. On Friday, she lovingly rendered the Sugar Plum Fairy as a strong yet gentle presence. Her partner was the athletic Andre Silva, who seems to go from strength to strength each season as he perfects his bravura technique.

Carolyn Judson was a sensitive Snow Queen, and Julie Gumbinner lit up the evening with her gentle lyricism in the “Waltz of the Flowers,” ably assisted by Peter Zweifel. All of the specialty dances were first rate: Thomas Kilps in a swashbuckling mood in the “Russian Dance,” Katelyn Clenaghan and Lucas Priolo in the equally demanding though more lyrical “Arabian Dance,” and Victoria Simo, Robin Bangert, and Lonnie Weeks in the elegant “Mirlitons” (once known as the “Dance of the Reed Flutes”).

From now until the end of the holiday season, here and in Dallas, the dancers will alternate roles from day to day. Though using prerecorded music, TBT’s production is still a must-see event.

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant
Thru December 20 at Circle Theatre, 230 W 4th St, FW
$20-$30, 817-877-3040

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