It’s been five years since Northeast Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” received a review in the pages of this newspaper. In the intervening years, this production, as seen at Proctors on Sunday afternoon, has blossomed. The Tchaikovsky ballet always looked sparkling as it did this year. What had changed were the dancers. They have matured in their ability and artistry.
Artistic Director of Northeast Ballet, Darlene Myers, must feel tremendous pride while watching these dancers whom she has nurtured through the years. They have bolstered her “Nutcracker,” which stand among the best in the region. Though her glittering rendering didn’t move to live music, there was much to admire and enjoy. Unique to Northeast Ballet’s version was a fiery notebook, secure in the breast pocket of the playful Uncle Drosselmeyer (Brian Bayly); a live horse to whisk Clara (Lauren Venditti) off to the Magic Kingdom of Sweets, and the inimitable New York City Ballet guest stars as the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier. This year, that honor was bestowed on the gracious Lauren Lovette and the dashing Gonzalo Garcia. Except for some excessive speed in a twirl that send Lovette off pointe, and into the attentive arms of Garcia, their dancing was superb — a rare treat for area ballet audiences who ache for as much New York City Ballet as possible.
Regardless, bringing in guests artists is often dangerous business as they can make every other dancer on stage look heavy and clumsy. Not this year. Northeast Ballet dancers held their own in nearly every scene.
The highlights came in the second act, during the round-the-world tour of divertissements. The Arabian variation with Michela Semenza and Matt Pardo was alluring, both exotic and understatedly sexy. Pardo’s swinging her around as she arched into a back bend until she was placed flat on the floor was a climatic ending to their duet.
Also excellent was Meaghan Fitzgerald, again with Pardo, in the Chinese dance. Kicking her leg up high and then being lifted off the ground, again and again, their dancing rendered an upbeat buoyancy that transferred joy to the audience.
Of course, the audience couldn’t resist the bawdy Mother Ginger (Bruce Williams) and his/her brood of gingerbreads and gingersnaps. With the audience clapping to the music, unprompted mind you, the Ginger clan delighted.
The first act was well played too. Fritz, as danced by Lucas Rodriquez, was particularly animated as the pesky brother. Venditti as Clara was appropriately sweet and supported the weight of her all-important role.
The snow couples, Pardo along with Miranda Berlin, Grace Codd, Audrey Davison, Richard Gatta and Timothy Silver, ushered in the cool blue swirling chill of the snow forest with elegance.
Of course, Lovette and Garcia were divine, dancing the grand pas de deux with a flourish. Lovette was charming as she embodied “the girl next door turning princess.” Garcia, on the other hand, was the epitome of suave. They presented as the delicious topping to the holiday treat that is Northeast Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”