Arts ballet review

A holiday tradition of ballet and Tchaikovsky

Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre performs The Nutcracker

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Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre performs The Nutcracker
Gary Sloan

The Nutcracker
Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre
Nov. 25 - Dec. 18

On Sunday evening, the stage of The Cutler Majestic Theatre opened up the classic tale of The Nutcracker with a starry background and long strips of white cloth flowing down from above the center of the stage. In this dreamy opening, magical fairies graciously twirled around the fabric, which loosely represented a Christmas tree, and dropped off a mysterious gift for the main character, Clara (Olivia Hynes).

With Tchaikovsky playing in the background, it was an interesting, modern way to start off the performance of a holiday tradition. The ballet itself is not at all plot-driven — it follows the story of a young girl Clara, who receives a nutcracker that comes to life. After Clara saves him in a battle against an army of rats, the Nutcracker Prince (Ryan Bulson) brings Clara to the magical Kingdom of the Sweets.

Compared with the opening, the later scenes were not nearly as interpretive with their set design (all of the props thereafter looked rather realistic), but the minimalist quality remained. While the party scene included a few pieces of living room furniture, the other scenes just had different backgrounds to differentiate themselves from each other.

Notable performances include those of Angie DeWolf and Spencer Doru Keith, who danced the powerful, sensual Arabian Variation, and Janelle Gilchrist and Junichi Fukuda, who leapt across the stage in the Russian Variation. Concluding the night was the Grand Pas de Deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy (Madeleine Bonn) and the Cavalier (Stephen James), both of whom danced with beautiful poise and strength through its multiple variations and coda.

In addition to the full company members, the stage was also graced with the twinkling toes of the youngest dancers from the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre. Dressed up in grey costumes with ears and round bellies, the mice scrambled around in adorable clusters with their arms curled up against their chests the entire time. They shared the stage alongside the toy soldiers, also performed by children, who marched in impressive formations.

With only 18 company dancers and two apprentices to play the many characters in The Nutcracker, most of the company members took on multiple roles. It was inspiring to watch a dancer be an elegant party guest at the beginning of the show, transform into a light, graceful snowflake in the forest scene, and then become a flower in the “Waltz of the Flowers” later in the second half. Because familiar faces kept returning to the stage, a sense of intimacy captured this particular production. It did not feel overwhelming or extravagant, but rather, like a charming celebration of the holiday season.

The Nutcracker will be performed at The Strand Theatre in Dorchester through Dec. 18.