Once again it is the season for "The Nutcracker," and the Maryland Ballet's rendition of the Christmas favorite is a nicely paced and endearing version of the holiday classic.
However, the Saturday evening performance at Goucher College lacked emotional snap.
That is not to say that the dancing was poorly executed. In fact, the company (and Maryland Ballet students) look more solid and more technically attuned than ever -- but that intangible spark of delight and daring was sadly missing from more than one divertissement.
"The Nutcracker," a ballet in three scenes in two acts, is a basic fairy tale ballet. The images flow from the stiff propriety of a house party to the imaginative dreams of a young girl, Clara, delightfully performed by Rebecca Leidig.
Her dreams take her through the swirl of snowflakes to an enchanted land, where beautiful inhabitants and a Nutcracker Prince (Bradley Parquette) and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Jeanne Leporati) entertain us and the young dreamer.
The notable performances in this production include Cynthia Bernshausen as the Snow Queen and John Thomas Bell as the Snow King. Two more dancers have been added in the corps of snowflakes this year, and artistic director Phillip Carman's spatial patterns create a lovely, swirling background for the couple.
Tisha Ford as Dewdrop and her entourage of flowers gave a fine and responsive performance in the Waltz of the Flowers. It was in the larger group scenes -- where timing and unison is paramount -- that the Maryland Ballet demonstrated how diligently they have been working. Both Maryland Ballet student Jill O'Donnell in Tea and Christopher Jean-Richard in the Russian dance drew appreciative applause for their spirited performances.
The young children from the Maryland Ballet have also shown improvement. Herr Drosselmeyer's helpers, the mice, and the Mother Ginger's Polichinelle's paid close attention to their pointed toes.
The grand pas de deux was danced by Ms. Leporati and Mr. Parquette with animated and spontaneous elegance.
However, Yvonne Racz and Mr. Bell turned in a rather lukewarm pas de deux in Coffee, and the Marzipan section with Elizabeth Morsches, Ms. Bernshausen and Anna Sides looked stale and uninspired. Jeanie McCaghren and Hilary Wright in Chocolate had little flavor at all. It is hoped these dancers will regain their zest when they repeat "The Nutcracker" Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Goucher.