Dance review: 'The Nutcracker' offers a full dance card of holiday spirit

Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" has returned to its proper place, performed by dancers on a stage at the DECC's Symphony Hall, courtesy of the Minnesota Ballet. If you need a little Christmas, right this very minute, this is the show for you.

A grown-up Clara (Emma Stratton) and the Prince (Ryo Munakata) dance in a snowy Central Park during Friday’s performance of the Minnesota Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the DECC. Steve Kuchera /
"The Nutcracker" (2017 file / News Tribune)

Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” has returned to its proper place, performed by dancers on a stage at the DECC's Symphony Hall, courtesy of the Minnesota Ballet. If you need a little Christmas, right this very minute, this is the show for you.

For all the precisely executed choreography in this classic holiday show, there is pleasure in watching the little carolers, trying their best to incline their heads, skip, turn and shuffle off stage in unison.

The kids dominate most of the first act, with Fritz (Liam Colclough) and Madeliene (Grace Flanagan) having the most fun-filled dancing duet of the night, Erin Moerbitz as the cute giant Teddy Bear and Savannah Ernst as young Clara. This year, I wondered how many grown-up Claras danced as the younger Clara in Nutcrackers past and what roles all these young dancers danced in previous years.  

Year in and year out, “The Nutcracker” is guaranteed to make you smile. The Christmas tree grows, the Nutcracker makes his dramatic entrance, and the Mouse King learns never to bring a tail to a sword fight. You have to smile.

The silly fun with the kids turns to the sublimely beautiful as Charles Clark's transformed Prince spins Sarah White's grown-up Clara around so her white skirt forms a cone. This is followed by the most welcome snowfall of the year as the beautiful Central Park scene is revealed and Brigid Duffin's Ice Fairy twirls while the Lake Superior Youth Choir sings.


I defy you not to smile and feel good.

After intermission, the audience enjoyed the dances from many realms (which I did not bother to count): the Geishas in their gorgeous kimonos while Eric Pagnano jumped over the old bamboo, the languid dance of Sarah Gresik's Arabian Princess with her sliding carpet, and Dominique Jenssen’s Spanish dancer, Doncella.

The biggest smiles of the evening came when Mother Ginger showed up to add too much glitter to her recipe and the world’s most adorable Gingerbread Cookies danced around while we got to clap along. An added treat this year is the opportunity to have your photograph taken as a gingerbread cookie in the lobby.

As the Russian tag-team, Tyler Piwowarczyk went low while Branson Bice went high, then round and round. The only way to top those two would be to bring out the Dan Westfield's Cavalier and Emma Stratton as the Sugar Plum Fairy, who had so many moments right on the money to the music, she became a dancing celesta.

The Waltz of the Flowers, with Brianna Crockett as the Dew Drop Fairy forming that opening daisy chain, was the big corps de ballet moment of the season. Then Westfield and Stratton provided pretty picture poses, with some impressive height on the lifts, for the Grand Pas de Deux. The finale serves as a dancing preview of the curtain call.

This review is of Thursday night's dress rehearsal, which lacked the little girls dressed in holiday finery, but had an audience of wide-eyed bunheads with visions of Nutcrackers yet-to-come in their heads.

Lawrance Bernabo is a theater and arts reviewer for the News Tribune.

If you go What: “The Nutcracker,” presented by the Minnesota Ballet


When: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Symphony Hall at the DECC

How much: Adults $24-$46, students $19-$36, 12 and younger $17-$31

Tickets: Call (218) 727-4344 or visit or or the DECC box office.

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