American Ballet Theatre seems to have almost as many different Claras and Princes as they have Nutcrackers. Yesterday afternoon the company, two-thirds through their current Kennedy Center presentation of this most Christmasy of ballets, unveiled Johan Renvall as their newest Nutcracker Prince, in an exceptional debut.
There isn't much a dancer can do with this Prince dramatically -- after all, he's only part of a little girl's dream, with hardly a personality of his own. The most he can di is kill mice bravely and look romantic in the pas de deux, both of which Renvall managed nicely.
His partnering of Rebecca Wright as Clara was not without mishap -- he lacks, as yet, the strength and stamina to handle smoothly the many difficult lifts and catches -- but he was at all times courteous with a truly princely bearing. His mime in the scene where the Prince tells his subjects how Clara saved his life during the battle with the Mouse King was spacious and clear.
As a dancer, Renvall has astounding elevation and extension, as well as a particularly fluid upper body. He doesn't always finish smoothly -- he slithered a bit during his big solo in the grand pas de deux -- but his round of turning jumps in the coda had a beautiful elasticity and thrilling energy.
Wright was a very convincing Clara, able to act like a little girl without cloying. She scored every dramatic point possible, and her second act solo was cleanly and joyously danced.
Raymond Serrano's Herr Drosselmeyer, magician and maker of dreams, was authoritatively mimed, but he showed more than the usual avuncular interest in Clara. He seemed positively jealous of the Prince when he came to fetch her home from the dream.
Cynthia Harvey was a crisp snowflake; Leslie Browne a wayward one. Cheryl Yeager and Warren Conover danced sweetly and cleanly in the Shepherd's Dance. The whole company danced well, never letting on that this was their 11th Nutcracker of the season and that they have five more to go.