This weekend, the first of our local nutcrackers take to the stage. It’s a holiday tradition that the New York Times’ Alastair MacCaulay calls an American obsession. But which performance should you attend? Our dance critic runs down North Texas’ ballet companies’ styles and strengths.

Which North Texas Nutcracker Production Should You See?

For children, there can be few better initiations into the world of classical ballet than a lavish production of The Nutcracker. But what is most surprising about the audiences that flock to the various local theaters each year to see one of the many Nutcracker productions North Texas has to offer is just how many adults, unaccompanied by children, treat themselves to a performance. From Dallas to Fort Worth, Richardson to Irving, there is a Nutcracker performance just waiting to transport you and your family into the holiday season with an enormous Christmas tree, toy soldiers battling giant mice, a sugar plum fairy and her Nutcracker prince, snow queens and marzipan candies all dancing about in festive delight.

Selecting a Nutcracker performance to attend can be a daunting task. In an attempt to simplify the process we have compiled a general overview of each of the upcoming productions in the 2010 Nutcracker season.

Texas Ballet Theater:  Bass Hall & Winspear Opera House (includes “The Nutty Nutcracker” spoof Dec 19 @ Bass Hall)

Based in Fort Worth, Texas Ballet Theater will perform their Nutcracker at home in Bass Hall and in Dallas at the Winspear Opera House. This Nutcracker is by far the most professional production of the season. It is so much more than just a lavish spectacle with delights for audiences of all ages and levels of experience. Famed artistic director Ben Stevenson serves up a fresh, lavish, dance-filled feast, infused with unbeatable seasonal charm.

November 27 – December 5, 2010, at the Winspear Opera House. December 10 – 24, 2010 at Bass Performance Hall. $19-$99.  More info here.

Moscow Ballet:  Fair Park

The lavish costumes for the King Rat and Nutcracker used in Texas Ballet Theater's production (Courtesy Photo)
The Great Russian Nutcracker, brought to you by the Moscow Ballet, has always been a beautifully crafted and exquisitely danced production. It has a narrative quite different from the time-honored story we have become accustom to in the United States, particularly in Act II where we travel to “The Land of Peace and Harmony” instead of the traditional “Land of The Sweets.” While the company is not local there are a handful of talented young dancers from the metro area who have been carefully selected to participate in the performances.

November 19-21 at Music Hall at Fair Park. $27.50 and up. More info here.

Chamberlain Ballet:  Eisemann Center

Based in Plano, Chamberlain Ballet has delighted audiences for two decades with its annual Nutcracker performances. For the production, Kathy Chamberlain brings in the most celebrated principal dancers from New York City Ballet. This year’s guest artists are principal dancer and Dance Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Wendy Whelan, and former New York City Ballet Principal, Philip Neal, returning in the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara’s Cavalier. In addition, this world-class production features pre-professional young dancers, respectable choreography, spectacular costumes, and dynamic stage lighting that brings fantasy to life. Chamberlain also partners with WFAA-TV Santa’s Helpers Toy Drive again this year. Each patron is encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped gift or toy to each Nutcracker performance they attend.

November 26-28 at the Eisemann Center. $7.50-$60. More info here.

Tuzer Ballet:  Eisemann Center

Based in Richardson, Tanju Tuzer packs a lot of dancing into the first half of the ballet, which is a nice change from productions that spend most of their time plodding through the story. In addition there are wonderful moments of unexpected humor throughout act one. The larger ensemble pieces, kingdom of the snow and waltz of the flowers, are somewhat under choreographed, however. Those weaknesses aside, this is a Nutcracker that leaves you warm and fuzzy, with lots of holiday good cheer.

December 18 and 19 at the Eisemann Center. $15 – $35. More info here.

Ballet Frontier: Will Rogers Auditorium

This is a good pre-professional production. It’s handsome to look at and features some fine dancing. But to those who have seen lots and lots of Nutcrackers — and admittedly, that’s not the majority of the audience — this is an ordinary show not at all enhanced by the rather drab venue. Perhaps as the company develops a larger following, they will have the opportunity to present their work in a more substantial theater space.

November 20 at Will Rogers Auditorium. General Admission $20. Reserved $30. More info here.

Collin County Ballet Theater: Eisemann Center

Clara in Texas Ballet Theater's 'Nutcracker' (Courtesy Photo)

Based in Frisco, Collin County Ballet Theater has been presenting The Nutcracker for more than 10 years under the collaborative directorship of Kirt and Linda Hathaway. Unfortunately the story gets a bit of a short shrift in this production, and Kirt Hathaway’s choreography is musically unsatisfying. The Nutcracker ballet is one of few works in the repertoire that is truly aimed at a children’s audience, but CCBT doesn’t seem to have the magic that grabs the children’s attention. Regrettably, it’s not just the audience that is shortchanged — the cast is too. An upside: Collin County does feature a live orchestra.

December 18 at the Heritage High School Theater. $20-$25 and December 22, and 23 at the Eisemann Center. $15-$75. More info here.

Lake Cities Ballet:  Stuver Auditorium, Lewisville

Lake Cities features lavish costumes, set design, and the rare opportunity to hear a Nutcracker in North Texas that features a live orchestra, the Lewisville Lake Symphony led by Maestro Adron Ming. Special guest artist Julie Kent joins the production from the American Ballet Theatre.

November 27 and 28 at Stuver Auditorium. $17/$32/$42. More info here.

Other Productions

Ballet Ensemble of Texas:  Irving Arts Center

November 27 and 28 at Coppell High School Auditorium. $25 adults, $20 children/seniors. 972-252-ARTS

Momentum Dance Company: Irving Arts Center

November 26-28 at Irving Arts Center, Carpenter Hall. $12-$20 with group rates and discounts available for any Irving School District employee or scouts. 972-252-ARTS.

Dallas Repertory Ballet:  Eiseman Center

December 10-12 at the Eiseman Center. $15-$55. More info here.

Festival Ballet of North Texas:  Margo Jones Auditorium

December 11-12 at the Margo Jones Auditorium at Texas Christian University. $10-$25. More info here.

Main image: From Ballet Frontier’s 2009 production.

9 comments on “Which North Texas Nutcracker Production Should You See?

  1. The Texas Ballet Theater production is NOT the most professional production of the Nutcracker. It’s missing something very important to a true “professional” production…live music. The score is being played by a tape or CD….a truely amateur way of presention. “World Class” (as they claim they are) organizations, with mulitmillion dollar budgets….don’t produce half baked efforts. When even several of the regional local ballet companies pony up the money for professional orchestra to produce this wonderful seasonal ballet…..you have to question the true motives of the TBT.
    Spend your money and your time to support dance companies who really know what is necessary to produce a ligitimate effort. There are several in the metroplex area. Support the real deal….not half baked ballet without live music…at huge premium ticket prices.

  2. Dear upto,

    Might I remind you that TBT is also a “local” ballet company. To the benefit of our community, “The Nutcracker” is not the only full-length ballet they produce each year, as is the case with many of the pre-professional companies mentioned in our list above. While I too would prefer to attend a performance of “The Nutcracker” that is accompanied by a live orchestra, and there are at least two production listed above that do include live orchestra, I stand by my assertion that the “most professional” ballet production is produced by Texas Ballet Theater. The level of production and dance quality is superior. For example, Collin County Ballet Theater puts on a sub-par production in terms of quality of dancers, choreography and production elements, so the fact that they engage a live orchestra does little to change the overall professionalism. To borrow a quote from the 2008 election, it’s like “putting lipstick on a pig.”

    Respectfully,
    Danna Reubin

  3. Thanks for the run down of the productions!
    In this economy, more and more ballet companies are struggling to support dancers, and unfortunately, live orchestras are often the first casualty. Setting that aside, I find that choreography is what can make or break any production and should carry much weight in the average score for any production. TBT’s production is quite lovely, but does leave me a little thirsty in the divertissements in Act II…especially considering the price tag.
    I also really enjoy the professional/pre-professional mixed shows as they truly illustrate the heart of the ballet. Nutcracker is all about a little girl’s fantasy, and I remember dreaming about one day being a ballerina. I like to see children, talented teens and experienced, dancers coming together to make a wonderful production happen. Granted, it might leave a few ragged edges, but that’s where a gifted choreographer can smooth things out.
    I haven’t seen all the productions mentioned here, but Ballet Frontier (a relative newcomer to the scene) puts on a lovely production. Yes, Will Roger’s is showing its age, but putting that aside, the choreography of Tobias and Tseng makes for a moving experience.
    I agree that a larger audience is what this company needs to take it to the next level. I will sit in that audience again this Saturday.

  4. The Dallas Ballet Company presents its annual production of the holiday favorite. The performance features members of the DBC, students of Dallas Ballet Center, Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Sarah Ricard Orza, and PNB principal dancer Seth Orza.

  5. With so many Nutcracker performances coming up it is lovely to have a list and a comment about some of the productions that our area has to offer.
    My pick for this weekend will certainly go to the production that Ballet Frontier of Texas puts on at Will Rogers; I have been to their performances several years and it is a great production.
    By the way the lovely photo on Front Row shows Ballet Frontier of Texas, with photo by Anthony Crowley.

  6. Really wish the Bass Hall production included a live orchestra. I have attended the Nutcracker every year since I was a small child but stopped going last year because of the lack of live music. Makes me sad.

  7. @ Ballet Fan

    I encourage you to attend the production at Bass Performance Hall this season. It is your support that helps the ballet company get closer to bringing back the live orchestra. Please support the company you loved so much.