Ballet Frontier of Texas wows in Nutcracker performance

By Abbey Block

With a combination of talented dancers, adorable children, and vibrant visuals, Ballet Frontier of Texas’ rendition of the Nutcracker was both beautiful and entertaining.
The ballet celebrated it’s 10th anniversary by putting a fun spin on a Christmas classic, with elements of humor and entertainment scattered through the show.
The plot:
Act One opens at a holiday party on Christmas Eve hosted by the Stahlbaum family. The Stahlbaum children, Clara and Fritz are eager for the guests to arrive. The party grows more festive and both the children and their parents begin to dance when Clara’s mysterious godfather, Drosselmeyer, arrives. He brings life-sized dolls, toys for the children, and a beautiful nutcracker for Clara.
As the evening winds down and the guests begin to leave, the Stahlbaum family retires to bed. Clara sneaks back to the Christmas tree to retrieve her nutcracker. When the clock strikes midnight, the magic unfolds. Clara begins to shrink and is caught in a battle between an army of toy soldiers led by her beloved nutcracker and an evil army of mice. It seems as if the mouse king will defeat the nutcracker. Clara throws her shoe to distract the enemy, giving the nutcracker a chance to win.
Clara is whisked away by the snow king and queen to the land of the sweets. In Act Two, she meets the sugar plum fairy and cavalier who reward her for her bravery in defeating the mouse king. A celebration of dance begins. Clara is entertained by dancers dressed as Spanish hot chocolate, Arabian coffee, Chinese tea, Russian candy and many others. The story ends with Clara leaving the magical scene to return home for Christmas.
The performers:
The show’s performers demonstrated both talent and poise. Even the youngest members of the cast acted professionally while on stage. When one young ballerina’s shoe accidently came off in the middle of the dance, the performers continued on as if nothing had happened- an indication of well-trained dancers.
The cast was made up of many young performers, who are obviously still learning and growing within their ballet careers. Although their technique may not have been perfect, these tiny dancers demonstrated that a performance does not need to be technically flawless to be entertaining. Their enthusiasm was a positive addition to the performances of the older and more seasoned dancers.

The show's artistic director is Chung-Lin Tseng, who began his artistic career as a figure skater.
The show’s artistic director is Chung-Lin Tseng, who began his artistic career as a figure skater. Photo by Amy Shaw.

A few stand-out performers made the show special. Clara (Payton Burdine) and Frtiz (Luke Jones) danced with grace and confidence that were far beyond their years. Clara demonstrated strong technique while dancing on pointe, despite her apparent young age. The Russian couple (Aldrin Vendt and Maria Howard) drew cheers from the audience for their high jumps and energetic kicks. The sugar plum fairy (Kathryn Boren) and cavalier (Paul Adams) wowed everyone with their technique and grace while dancing as a pair and while performing their solos.
Unique elements:
Within the dances, the show added in bits of humor.
Perhaps the most entertaining was the army of evil mice that fight the nutcracker and toy soldiers. The mouse army’s costumes are oversized and clunky, which only added to the mice’s comical performance.
The audience laughed as the mice flopped around the stage in an attempt to defeat the opposition. This bit of humor was a fun way to make the show entertaining for those who may not necessarily enjoy a ballet.
The show was enhanced by its use of well-designed sets and costumes. The sets were visually stimulating but in no way overwhelming to the eye.
From the set of the Christmas party to the land of the sweets, the background only enhanced the dancers’ performances and never detracted from them. The costumes looked professional and authentic, like the of the sugar plum fairy’s tutu, accentuating the performance of Kathryn Boren.
Ballet Frontier of Texas is celebrating the 10th anniversary of it's first Nutcracker performance. Photo by Amy Shaw. Pictured: Kathryn Boren as the sugar plum fairy.
Photo by Amy Shaw. Pictured: Kathryn Boren as the sugar plum fairy.

There are many ways in which to tell the story of the Nutcracker. Ballet Frontier of Texas created a performance that honored the tradition of the story, but did not seem boring or stuffy. The show was well-directed and well-executed.
The performers, both novice and advanced, acted professionally but also showed their passion for ballet.
Overall this performance of a holiday classic was entertaining for everyone, not just those who enjoy ballet.
Tickets and information can be found here.