Dance: New York City Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ is a triumph

NYCB Nutcracker
The Sugar Plum Fairy delights Marie and her young prince in New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”
Credit: Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet offers a delicious and decadent experience in George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” running through Jan. 4. Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater — with its plush red velvet decor, champagne distribution center and “snowflake” photo booth — offers an air of indulgence that transports its audience to fantasyland. With more than 40 performances this winter, and 200 performers used, the show provides the company’s 50 School of American Ballet students an opportunity to shine and its more schooled stars to explore the maturation of their characters through repetition. “The Nutcracker” is a theatrical winter wonderland and an escape from reality that has been performed by NYCB every year since 1954.

“The Nutcracker” was the first full-length work that NYCB ever performed and is revered as one of the classics. This year, with costumes by Karinska, lighting by Mark Stanley and scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, the company flourishes in all its glory.

One highlight is when little Marie and her Nutcracker prince walk hand in hand to the Land of Sweets in a phenomenally articulated shift from reality to fairy tale. Balanchine’s choreography shines as the snowflake ballerinas conjure a flurry in a crisp and nuanced performance where they sparkle as both individual movers and a unified collection of flakes.

Within the Land of Sweets, the Dewdrop prevails; principal dancer Ana Sophia Scheller is exquisite. She has an arabesque line that is poised to extend before your eyes until you no longer remember how she found her way into the position in the first place. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier shine in a series of supported pirouettes that finish in an ravishing back bend that begins a hair to off center and spins upright.

Despite a few bumps along the way — that snow sure is slippery — NYCB’s “Nutcracker” offers that sugar high that suspends time and satisfies your holiday season sweet tooth.

If you go

New York City Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
Through Jan. 4
David H. Koch Theater
20 Lincoln Center Plaza
$67-$254,
www.nycballet.com

(Disclosure: Megan Kendzior is a student life assistant at the American School of Ballet, but she did not work on NYCB’s “The Nutcracker.”)

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