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The Cincinnati Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker," which returned to Music Hall Friday night, unfailingly charms and dazzles with its dramatic production values.
But this year, dancing bests the visual seductions of this 27th annual holiday tradition.
After the Stahlbaum Christmas Eve party is over, the toy maker- magician Drosselmeier (animated Valentine Liberatore) causes the family Christmas tree to grow to gargantuan size to Tchaikovsky's soaring music.
Then, little Marie (Adiarys Almeida), as she is called in choreographer Val Caniparoli's version rather than Clara, finds herself in the midst of a battle between the Mouse King's mice and the toy soldiers.
Despite the mice arsenal of weaponry that includes a hatpin, scissors and a toothbrush supplied by creative designer Alain Vaes, Marie's Nutcracker (Cervilio Miguel Amador) is victorious over the scampering rodents.
Then, it's on to the Land of Toys & Sweets for Marie and the Nutcracker, now a handsome prince, for some serious dancing.
And, the dancing, which looks to have undergone considerable tweaking from Caniparoli, briskly asserts itself in many dramatic and humorous movements.
Almeida and Amador are splendid together. Caniparoli's ballet gives the two dancers a full slate of responsibility. In addition to Marie and the Nutcracker prince, the pair dances the king and queen in the Kingdom of Snow scene and the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier's Grand Pas Deux.
Almeida and Amador make the snow scene exciting rather than merely poetic through their aggressive attacks on these dances. They present a blizzard of jumps, elevations and runs.
In the great second-act Grand Pas de Deux, the mood changes to romantic intensity. The moves are sweeping.
At one point, Amador lifts Almeida assuredly over his right shoulder, around his torso to conclude with suspending Almeida in an arc now at the front of his body. What wondrous surety.
Amador's turns in air are exciting and powerful.
However, one airy turn that requires him to land and immediately go into transition to one leg with the other leg extended in what is called arabesque showed some balance difficulties.
The high quality of dancing continued with other soloists. Tricia Sundbeck and Janessa Touchet, their backs like steel rods, made the pointe work (movement of feet) look elegant in the Spanish dance.
Newcomer Joseph Gatti, in the Chinese dance, looked exceptionally lithe in jumps that require both legs simultaneously to go right and then left.
Mishic Marie Corn, as the rose, in the "Waltz of the Flowers," offers quicksilver pointe work and looked elegant concluding one phrase with a soaring kick (grand battement) worthy of the Moulin Rouge.
It's a memorable "Nutcracker."
THE NUTCRACKER, the Cincinnati Ballet, Friday night at Music Hall, 1243 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, tonight-Sunday, Tuesday-Friday, and again Dec. 26, $12-$58; (513) 621-5282.
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