By Lawrence Budmen

Ballet Florida’s production of The Nutcracker is an eye filling spectacle bedecked with enchanting choreography and opulent décor. Unlike Miami City Ballet’s neo-classical Balanchine version, Marie Hale’s choreography vividly evokes the romantic aura of Tchaikovsky’s score and the fantasy of E.T.A Hoffman’s scenario. The grandeur of Eduardo Sciango’s mise-en-scene is illuminated by an endless parade of multicolored, elegant costumes designed by Jorge Gallardo and A. Christina Giannini. A. George Cripps’ evocative lighting captures the magic of the Land of Snow and the Castle of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The dancers of Ballet Florida exhibited precision, agility, and seamless ensemble. At Saturday evening’s performance at the Kravis Center, Yuan Xi danced a poetic Clara , a model of sensitivity and elegance. In dual roles Shannon Smith brought miraculous speed to the Mechanical Soldier and grand classical line as a striking Nutcracker Prince. Joseph J. Bucheck III was a scene stealer in the mime role of the kind hearted magician Drosselmeyer. 

In the magical snowflakes scene, Deborah Marquez and Gary Lenington lit up the stage as the Snow Queen and Prince. The superb female corps was vivacious amid delightful special effects that brought a winter wonderland vividly alive. 

The divertissement of the second act displayed the company’ s outstanding solo roster. As the Sugar Plum Fairy, Yumelia Garcia seemed borne on air while Markus Schaffer dazzled as her Cavalier. This winning duo pulled out all the stops in a scintillating Pas de deux. 

Marife Gimenez (a Miami City Ballet alumnus) was light as a feather as the solo Bon-Bon. (Hale’s choreography for the Bon-Bon dance captured the sparkle and transparency of Tchaikovsky’ s music.) Douglas Gawriljuk, another former MCB dancer, flew in on a magic carpet for a sensual Arabian Dance with the stunning Maria-Angeles Llamas. The Waltz of the Flowers was exquisitely rendered on light pointe with an array of eye catching pastels. 

Like the lavish spectacles of the Yuri Grigorivich era at the Bolshoi Ballet, this Nutcracker manages to combine stately beauty with showbiz flair. Ballet Florida’s production is an artistic marvel and great holiday entertainment. 

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