There’s nothing quite like catching a matinee performance of Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker in Dallas, when the elegant Winspear Opera House is overrun with moms (plus some dads) ushering kids in their holiday primmest through the maze of old-fashioned popcorn stands. (I’m happy to report the kids’ headband category of Lele Sadoughi is alive and thriving.) Dallas-Fort Worth is home to dozens of Nutcrackers, but TBT’s lavish production, choreographed by renowned artistic director Ben Stevenson, is the fanciful tale at its finest.
The Tchaikovsky-scored classic is the one ballet where a slight murmuring throughout — even the occasional “Who’s that!?” — is truly welcome. From the audience, it’s the best, but to get a sense of how the magic feels on stage, I spoke with Texas Ballet Theater principal dancer Alexandra Light, who performs the Sugar Plum Fairy, Arabia, Snow Queen, and even Clara’s grandmother in various performances throughout the TBT Nutcracker’s Dallas and Fort Worth runs.
While the Dallas run is complete, tickets are still available for The Nutcracker at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall from December 9 to Saturday, December 24.
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PaperCity: You alternate between performing Arabian, Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and even the Grandmother in The Nutcracker this season. Do you have a favorite role?
Alexandra Light: It is definitely hard to pick — each one is my favorite in its own way. Ben’s Nutcracker is special because there are so many characters to play with, like the grandmother. Ben’s Arabian is truly one of my favorite pieces choreographically because of the partnering.
PC: The Nutcracker may be the one ballet where the occasional chatter and small shout is welcome from the audience. Can the performers feel the energy of the younger audience?
AL: Yes! I love hearing the kids in the audience because I know how special these performances are for them. Though the run of shows is very long and tiring, having the enthusiasm of the audience makes it easier to push through.
PC: If you could play any other role (great or small) in The Nutcracker, which would it be?
AL: I have fond memories of playing Clara when I was younger in the company and when I was a little kid! But so long as I get to do Arabian I’m a pretty happy camper. I do find myself daydreaming during the long Nutcracker run about the future and working on my own choreography.
As an emerging choreographer in an industry that is shockingly male-dominated – Dance Data Project reported that only 27% of choreography commissions for this season were for female choreographers! — I find myself working hard when I’m not onstage to create my own choreographic world.
PC: Performing the Sugar Plum Fairy is a dream for so many young dancers. What is your advice to aspiring dancers who aspire to wear that particular tutu?
AL: To keep practicing and most of all stay true to yourself. So many talented dancers burn out so young, which is really sad. I feel grateful that when I was young, I had a really supportive community of teachers who taught me to be the best dancer I could be with my own set of skills. That is crucial to a long career like I’ve been lucky to have.
PC: There are many wonderful performances of The Nutcracker throughout Dallas each season, but the Texas Ballet Theater is often viewed as the cream of the crop. What do you think makes the performance so special?
AL: I feel that there are so many true artists in this company — dancers who have integrity for their craft and have been doing the classical ballet thing for such a long time. When I work with my peers on my own choreography, I am always astounded by their talent and creativity and how much they give and care about their work.