I’m obsessed with North Carolina Dance Theater. I hang out on their Facebook page, I wait impatiently for each of their performances, and I’m at every production. But no performance brings as much happiness to my heart as The Nutcracker. It’s a celebration of the holiday season with wonder, charm, and beauty. Featuring choreography by Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, live music from the Charlotte Symphony, and over 100 performers, the season sparkles brighter with The Nutcracker. Last year, I was mesmerized with the male lead performances; this year, however, the women were brighter than the lights on stage. Look out Pete Leo Walker; you’ve got some up-and-coming competition.
Generations of audiences have enjoyed this Christmas favorite, a charming tale of holiday adventure that follows Clara, a young girl who receives the gift of a nutcracker soldier from her mysterious uncle. During the night, magical events unfold: toy soldiers and little mice become larger, Clara’s nutcracker comes to life, they are transported to the glittering Land of Snow, where they are greeted by the Snow Queen and King, and to the Land of Sweets, where they are greeted by tiny Angels, the majestic Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Sweets of the Kingdom.
In Act 1, the audience was mesmerized by the party scene at Clara’s house. Particularly remarkable were the living dolls who delighted all with their precision and grace. The elaborate incorporation of children captivated the attention of all audience members; even males couldn’t help but smile at the tiny, hovering angels carrying candles.
When Clara and The Nutcracker are transported to the glittering Land of Snow and greeted by the Snow Queen and King, I was transfixed by the magical scene and by the grace of the Snow Queen, Anna Gerberich. Pete Leo Walker was on stage; that is normally reason enough to forget everything else that is happening and adjust all of my focus on him, but the Snow Queen had my undivided attention. Each movement was defined and the control of movement was extraordinary. She was a star, representing all that is beautiful about ballet.
If things could possibly be more stunning, it would be the garden of flowers led by a magnificent Rose, Sarah Hayes Watson. Her passion was written all over her face and her body. She moved with an elegance that left me speechless, mouth agape. When you’re a child and you have a ballerina music box, Sarah Hayes Watson is what you see and how you envision the ballet.
I celebrated the season with a cast of hundreds as they took us on a magical journey to mystical lands with endless beauty and stunning performers. I expected to be mesmerized and awed by the men of The Nutcracker, Jordan Leeper and Pete Leo Walker in particular, after all they have exceeded my expectations during every performance, but Sarah Hayes Watson and Anna Gerberich found their way into my heart. This family-friendly and affordable production is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. Visions of Sugar Plums are still dancing in my head; it just wouldn’t be the holidays without The Nutcracker.