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The Nutcracker: The Snow Must Go On


It's 82º Fahrenheit in the shade, everybody is walking around in shorts and T-shirts, and the sun's baking out a thirst big enough to drain a river dry. So how could it be snowing in San Antonio? Great big fat snowflakes. Well, all right, slim, elegant and attractive snowflakes.

Welcome to the world of The Nutcracker, brought to life with rare charm and tenderness by the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth and Dallas Ballet at San Antonio's Lila Cockrell Theater, Dec 1-3.

Stealing the show at Dec. 3 performance, was the young artist Sasha. Sasha played Clara, the girl presented with a stylish nutcracker shaped like a soldier. Together girl and Nutcracker will save the legendary Land of Sweets from the ravages of Ratsputtle, the Mouse King.

Other notable performances included Valentine Liberatore as the enigmatic Drosselmeyer, the doll maker and family friend who gives Clara the nutcracker as a present. Also Jennifer Langenstein who, as the adult Clara, danced the final routine with Dmitri Kulev, the Nutcracker Prince. Jennifer managed to stay on point (standing on tippy toes) for as much as ten to fifteen minutes without a break. Langenstein either has no sense of pain or extremely tough toe nails.

The powerfully played musical score, conducted by David Mairs, had some of the children in the audience dancing in the aisles, precarious and narrow as those aisles were. Even teenagers found the performance enjoyable.

"It makes me wish I'd studied ballet as a child," 17 year-old Denae admitted afterwards. Her eyes, moist with excitement, reflected the emotions that touched the audience's hearts.

"I'd come again," agreed K.C., another 17 year-old and varsity high school baseball player.

For those with little experience of ballet, a free program with the complete story of The Nutcracker was distributed by the volunteer ushers. But diligently following the story as the dancers perform tended to detract from the beauty and immensity of the dance and music. This reviewer found it best to just sit back and let the atmosphere of the ballet take over.

This year's Fort Worth and Dallas Ballet's The Nutcracker was a family show well worth seeing, with a story line and artistry designed to appeal to all ages. Those given to long-range planning might even wish to check the ballet's 1999 schedule and mark their calendars early. Very early.

Stephen Smith