Four choreographers -- Petrus Bosman, Cherie Noble, Maureen Basta and David Keener -- are credited for Maryland Ballet's "Nutcracker." The list ought to be longer, for this version of our inescapable yule-time dance entertainment has some things old, some things new, some things borrowed.
A touch of "Upstairs, Downstairs" is given to the opening scene, the Christmas party, by the antics of four servants. As holdovers from a previous production by James Starbuck, they dance less than formerly but still provide this "Nutcracker" with its most distinctive moments. The roles of their prosperous masters are prominent in the current run, with the pater-familias portrayed as just a bit officious and vain by Curt Decker, who walks tall beside Maureen Basta as his robust, bustling wife. Despite such characterizations, the first scene was stodgy. What is needed, in addition to all the choreographers, is a director to keep the action from dying between set pieces and make the party come to life.
Pacing improved gradually as the story propelled us into a child's dream world of toys, snowflakes and sweets, and as there was more and more dancing. At long last, one can detect a Maryland Ballet style of movement. It is neat yet lively, light and fast. The straight backs and long lines are reminiscent of Britain's Royal Ballet; the speed and phrasing of New York City Ballet. While the Marylanders do not have the strength of the two famous ensembles, the very suggestion of a synthesis is no small achievement.
"Nutcracker" opened Wednesday at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore and continues through tomorrow afternoon. On Thursday, the Snow Queen's many turns were danced smoothly by Reva Pincusoff, with Sylvester Campbell as her King and able partner. In the Sugar Plum pas de deux, delicate Martha Purl personified the new Maryland style. So did Mark Mejia, despite some forcing. There was fine musicianship by Joel Levine's orchestra.