You can’t judge a ballet company by its Nutcracker. Which is fortunate for Nevada Ballet Theatre.
December 24 marks the last chance to take in the troupe’s new production of the holiday juggernaut. Choreographed by Peter Anastos and performed at Paris Las Vegas, the new Nutcracker is comfortingly traditional and often adorable, with pretty stage pictures and a story that’s very easy for young audience members to follow.
But the ballet part of the equation is somewhat lacking, even pedestrian—by which I mean there’s lots of walking and running around. With a few exceptions, the dancers never really get off the ground. This doesn’t fairly represent the new directions and discipline the troupe displays under new artistic director James Canfield. Anastos delivers on the storytelling and the humor. The first act, a Christmas party in a family home, provides lots to watch, with the kids squabbling over toys as the gorgeously-dressed grown-ups gossip and gavotte. Most of Tchaikovsky’s famous melodic themes emerge in Act 2, a kitschy world tour of musical exotica. This is where the dancing comes in, and Anastos—perhaps because he is working with dozens of children—favors parades and promenades. The young dancers are darling (it’s enchanting to see them so rapt while watching the grown-up dancers leap and twirl) and their discipline and technique are a credit to NBT’s Academy.
The big question is: Why, if you’re going to rejuvenate your Nutcracker, wouldn’t you find a fresher-sounding recording of the Tchaikovsky score?
The long-vacant Paris showroom is a mixed blessing for Nevada Ballet. The lighting is luxurious, the stage floor makes for blessedly silent footfalls, the expansive stage allows for widescreen imagery and room for leaps. But after the fantasia, dressed-up young ballet-goers are disgorged abruptly into, well, a casino, and are promptly frog-marched by the parents to the parking lot.