Holiday Performances

Washington Ballet's 'Nutcracker' and Other Holiday Performances

Elizabeth Gaither and Jaret Nelson were the Snow Queen and King in the Washington Ballet's
Elizabeth Gaither and Jaret Nelson were the Snow Queen and King in the Washington Ballet's "The Nutcracker." (By Carol Pratt)
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Monday, December 15, 2008


The holiday tradition of "The Nutcracker" ballet is solid and unassailable, and the Washington Ballet's version, which opened Friday at the Warner Theatre, is the kind of seasonal treat that raises the spirits and makes everyone smile. This is a bonbon of a "Nutcracker," a bite-size sweet that is beautifully wrapped in charming sets and extravagant costumes.

Artistic Director Septime Weber's rendering of this classic is now in its fifth year. He has set it locally, as have a number of other choreographers before him. This time, it's Christmas Eve, 1782, in a Georgetown mansion. The Rat King is King George III. His rat soldiers are redcoats, and they battle the Continental Army. In Act 2, Clara and her prince travel to the banks of the Potomac River in springtime, where the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Not only are the characters decidedly American, but so is the dancing. There is an open and guileless quality to the performances of company members and Washington School of Ballet students. Nowhere was this more evident than in Elizabeth Gaither's delightful Snow Queen. This was no delicate snowflake, blown hither and thither by the wind only to land delicately and melt away. Gaither was more of a snowball, whizzing with confidence and good spirit through a wintry mix.

Talia Startsman danced a sunny, sweet Clara with an air of vulnerability. As the Sugar Plum Fairy, Maki Onuki began like ribbon candy: exquisite to look at, beautifully molded and a little stiff. Over time, however, she softened and sparkled. Jonathan Jordan was a requisitely elegant Cavalier. Washington Ballet apprentice Norton Fantinel, doubling as the Kachina Doll and Frontiersman, commanded the stage like General Patton.

This year, the production went from using 200 children to deploying 350 in five full casts. They are drawn from the 750 students at the Washington Ballet's schools in Anacostia, Northwest Washington and Alexandria.

The production continues through Dec. 28.

-- Pamela Squires


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