The December 5, 2021 Saturday matinee performance featured Noelani Pantastico as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Christopher D’Ariano as her cavalier. Michael Jinsoo Lin provided the  expert solo violin. D’Ariano’s been given a lot of opportunities in the past year, and it’s easy to see why—he’s a skilled dancer and a sensitive partner. But it’s the radiant Pantastico that commands the stage with her articulate bourée and seemingly effortless turns. She impresses with her endless balances, maintains control in challenging moments (as when she’s being pulled across the floor in arabesque), and keeps her dancing precise, whether turning quickly on a diagonal or in en ménage moves, or performing exacting point work.

The spry James Moore is a truly ominous Herr Dosselmeier, yet also entertaining—one of my favorite Dosselmeiers. Price Suddarth’s Toy Soldier is a display of great flexibility (and high jumps in the Candy Canes sequence). Solo roles in Act II danced by Christian Poppe (a clean jumper), Juliet Prine (a detailed dancer, with a brilliant smile), and Miles Pertl (an attentive Mother Ginger) are particularly enjoyable. Shout out, too, to Elle Macy as the lithe Coffee.

The action picks up in Act II, with a fast-paced fight scene—even Clara’s whirling bed is dizzying. And a very busy winter scene, the snowflakes are in step with each other, and the music. Of particular note is their grand jeté—expansive, yet light. The choreography for the young children, Mother Ginger’s Polichinelles, is somewhat complicated, and the children dance it beautifully.

The Waltz of the Flowers, led by dewdrop Amanda Morgan is dazzling. Many of these dancers are from the PNB School, and they seamlessly execute the dance moves. Morgan, however, stuns on stage. Her chaîné turns are quick, her attitudes solid, her torso beautifully placed. But most impressive is her strong phrasing. This is George Balanchine’s Nutcracker, and the soldiers are small, the mice are big, the tree even larger, and Clara is young throughout. It’s a perfect Nutcracker for this company.





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