Ballet is the Star in San Franciso Ballet's Nutcracker


December 13, 2018—San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker opened Wednesday evening, delighting children of all ages and serious fans of ballet. While in a few online reviews, some fans have criticized San Francisco Ballet's revised Nutcracker for having a sparser set with fewer dancers and missing some magic of years past, this presentation of the annual tradition seemed cleaner, smoother, and more centered on the dancers than on theater gimmicks.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)
San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)

True, in this version Clara and Drosselmeyer watch the dancing from a sleigh instead of the snow palace as in past productions, gone is the finale of the sleigh flying off the stage, and the rising Christmas tree is not as imposing as in some productions. But the Nutcracker can be overdone and overbearing. This Nutcracker, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson in 2004, brings the dancers up front and visible, without getting lost among over-elaborate sets and mobs of flowers, snowflakes, and children. The result is a production that is a pleasure to watch. The magic is still there. Val Caniparolli's Drosselmeyer works his sorcery, from performing simple slight of hand to a mesmerizing command of supernatural forces.

But the real magic is in the dancing. As the Queen and King of the Snow Mathilde Froustey and Carlo Di Lanno executed their usual superb pirouettes and lifts. Sofiane Sylve's Sugar Plum Fairy was beautifully elegant in her arabesques and turns. Esteban Hernandez wowed as the lead Russian, demonstrating impressive command of the classic Russian squat-and-kick move (Preesyadkee or knee-bending). Wan Ting Zhao's Arabian dancer sinuously emerged from a magic lamp, not much larger than herself, and captivated all with her signature superhuman extensions lithe movements.

The entire cast was superb. It was all magical.

San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker runs through Saturday December 29th at the War Memorial Opera House.