In December 2014, Pacific Northwest Ballet rolled out its new Nutcracker – Balanchine’s version, complete with animated films. This new Nutcracker was four years in planning for PNB, and it boasts the familiar (Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, lots of stellar dancing, lots of small children, Act II variations) and the new (an adult-only Clara, new costumes including the snowball sticks held by the Snowflake corps, a smaller multi-headed Mouse King). In the past two years, I’ve seen a number of principal couples, but Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold, Laura Tisserand and Miles Pertl, and Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffiths stand out for me.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Company Dancer's in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Foundation.

Act 1 Battles Photo: Angela Sterling

Of course, the production does not rise or fall on the basis of these couples’ work. So much goes into a Nutcracker production, especially since children are involved. For one, there is a multitude of costumes and props. Still, the couples are important because they are the touchstone for the entire second act. Each of the three have brought something completely different to the stage.

Real-life couple Rausch and Bold have a unique chemistry and tenderness on stage. Rausch with her spotless technique, her patrician posture, is a stunning counter to Bold’s more dramatic ways. He, too, astounds with his flawless turns and leaps, but together, they show us how their varying deportments, combined, can lead to great drama on stage.

Tisserand and Pertl are electric together. “Cavalier” is a relatively new role for Pertl; he offers a fresh and eager prince whereas Tisserand has a singular and commanding stage presence. Pertl is ever-attentive to his Sugar Plum Fairy.

Biasucci and Griffiths are both “givens” in terms of their impeccable technique, and this is what they deliver – reliably, irrespective of the program, and Nutcracker is no exception. If I want to see perfection, this is it.

The Nutcracker run is critical to the success of a company. It wasn’t always performed at Christmas, but in the past years, it most certainly has been. As Peter Boal noted in the December 2017 Encore program (p 10), “You are one of 100,000 people of all ages who come to see this magical production each year…” This is a large house – for current and present productions. As Boal notes (citation the same), “The Nutcracker has often served as an ideal entry point into the world of ballet…” Watching the different casts perform helps to keep The Nutcracker fresh for me. This reviewer finds a fresh entry point into the world of ballet via Nutcracker each year.

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