'Nutcracker' is in fine form


December 10, 1992|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

There has been a lot of speculation concerning why "Th Nutcracker" ballet has become a holiday tradition. Perhaps it is the fact that this 100-year-old ballet with its magical score by Tchaikovsky and wealth of aspiring dancers has the uncanny ability to rejuvenate the spirit.

The Maryland Ballet opened its version of the beloved ballet last evening at the Lyric Opera House. Artistic Director Phillip Carman has assembled a fine cast of dancers from several dance companies to bring the holiday tradition to life. Those performing last night included Tai Jimenez, Keith Saunders, Endalyn Taylor-Shellman, Laveen Naidu and Cedric Rouse from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Anna Marta Sala from the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Phillip Carman's production has all the familiar trappings that have made this work a favorite. The opening tableau of city streets flows into the formal propriety of a holiday open house, that is interrupted by the wild antics of the children. It is to Mr. Carman's credit that the children are allowed to dance -- and they often outshine the adults. Young Clara, Adrienne Canterna, is a Maryland Ballet "Nutcracker" veteran and her precious performance and stage presence could well guarantee her a career of future Claras.

As the dance progresses, Clara is transported from the holiday celebration through the land of snow to the Castle on the Mountain of Sweets. The scenes move quickly, and there is always something to keep young attention spans alert.

Notable performances were given by Ms. Jimenez and Mr. Saunders as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier. Ms. Jimenez has a regal elegance and her fine footwork, spirited dancing and close attention to musical nuance brought a warm audience response. Mr. Saunders was a gracious and lively partner.

Anna Marta Sala and her entourage of flowers gave a nicely responsive performance in the "Waltz of the Flowers." Ms. Sala has a fluid quality to her dancing, and she seemed to skim through the waltz. When unison was called for, the company was just a little ragged around the edges, but the professionalism of the troupe made everything look easy.

"Coffee: Arabian Dance," with its sensuous music, is always an audience favorite. This duet, terrifically performed by Kellye Gordon and Cedric Rouse, was filled to the brim with intricate moves and difficult lifts. Equally spicy were the sure-footed leaps by Calvin Shawn Landers, who was featured in "Candy Canes: Russian Dance."

The ballet appears at the Lyric through Dec. 20.

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