“The Nutcracker,” the popular ballet set to music composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, opened in at the Community Center Theater, Sat., Dec. 7, with an afternoon matinee followed by an evening show.
For the 26th season, under gifted Ron Cunningham and Carinee Binda’s direction, the world-class Sacramento Ballet began its holiday run of the spectacular Christmas time show. The talented group of dancers from all parts of the world including Japan, Australia, and England played to a house packed with all ages.
The evening performance was the first of five shows set to live music performed by the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra with Henrik Jul Hansen conducting.
One of the highlights of the evening was seeing artistic director Ron Cunningham take on the role of Dr. Drosselmeyer. Seventy-four year old Cunningham who was once the principal dancer for the Boston Ballet, moved about the stage in the non-dancing character with plenty of spring in his step. The brilliant choreographer sharing the stage with his ballerina daughter, Alexandria Cunningham was a real crowd pleaser.
Mr. Cunninham’s extraordinary storytelling and his choreography combined with breathtaking scenery set the tone for holiday spirit for this magical time of the year.
Alex Stewart, the Nutcracker who transforms into the triumphant Toy Soldier and then into a Prince, was applauded not only for his character (Who doesn’t want to see a Prince capture a young girl’s heart?) but also his superb dancing.
The battle between the Nutcracker turned Toy Soldier and the Mouse King ended hilariously with the defeated Mouse King making the sign of the cross and giving a little bye-bye before falling to the ground.
Rising star Lauryn Winterhalder lit up the stage in the Snowflake Forest scene.
Winterhalder shared the stage as the Snow Queen with veteran Stefan Calka, the Snow King. The versatile young dancer’s snow queen performance proved her ability to dance classical ballet in perfect form while her Arabian role was indicative of an artist who dances with their body and soul.
Winterhalder's style is reminiscent of veteran dancer Isha Llyod’s. Her dance is nothing short of exquisite.
Lauren Breen showed great enthusiasm in her unforgettable performance as the Spanish dancer; surrounded by four male dancers, she handled the fan like a flamenco dancer while performing the complex routine.
Ginger haired, always smiling Sarah Britton Hicks evidenced some of her early gymnastics training as the Candy Cane. Hicks accomplished gravity defying leaps while jumping through her prop – a hula hoop.
Christopher Nachtrab, the veteran dancer that spells ballet F-U-N, danced the Russian role as he catapulted his muscular frame high above the stage and down again slapping the stage over and over at neck-breaking speed. Nachtrab, who was also the Grandfather in Act I, dances great even when he dances poorly!
Of course, veterans Alexandra Cunningham and Richard Porter moved with ease, grace, and beauty as they danced the grand pas de deux. In spite of Miss Cunningham’s confirmed knee injury, her role as Sugar Plum Fairy was flawless, and watching long limbed Porter leap across the stage left the audience breathless.
The performance received a standing ovation and the cast took three well deserved bows. I give it five stars.
There are only 10 shows remaining. Get your tickets before they sell out! Roles change from show to show but with the versatile talent of Sacramento's own world-class Ballet, every show will be awesome. Don't miss this show!
Tickets for all shows can be purchased online or at the Ballet box office.
Performance dates with live music:
December 15, 1:00pm
December 20, 7:00pm
December 23, 1:00pm
Performance dates to recorded music:
December 13, 7:00pm
December 14, 2:00pm
December 14, 7:00pm
December 15, 5:30pm
December 21, 2:00pm
December 22, 1:00pm
December 22, 5:30pm —ADDED BONUS: Kirsten Bloom comes out of retirement for this one and only performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy