"The Nutcracker"

Kristine Gregorian as Dew Drop entertains Clara (Alexandria Wong) and the Nutcracker Prince (Jackson Bradshaw). (Courtesy of Tom Pease / December 5, 2013)

Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre turned out an exuberant performance featuring highlights from "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 1 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

The audience could feel a chill in the air as dancers glided across the stage — as if on an ice pond — during the first act titled "Les Patineurs" ("The Skaters") with music by Giacomo Meyerbeer. Choreography was by the late Frederick Ashton, a mid-20th century choreographer, and staging by the Burbank company's artistic director Natasha Middleton.

Kristine Gregorian and Michael A. Hamilton played the Lovers and frolicked jubilantly with silky turns and lifts. Quinn C. Jaxon displayed great zest as the show-off — the Blue Boy — exhibiting speed and exhaustive spins, and once, leaping into the splits, before disappearing behind the stage curtain. Later, a faux fall shocked him back to humility.

All the best parts of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" made up the second act. Alexandria Wong was up to the challenge as Clara — finally performing the part at age 16 that she had wished to dance since she was 4. Her expressions — wondrous, as she received the Nutcracker doll for Christmas from her Uncle Drosselmeyer, to enchantment while visiting the Land of the Sweets — added to her fine execution of turns and lifts.

Jackson Bradshaw as the Nutcracker Prince was equally capable whether dancing solo or guiding Clara on their magical journey. Their reactions to each other and the other characters were sincere and sweet.

The Spanish dancers Albertossy Espinoza and Elen Harutunyan were precise in their movements while the Arabian duo, Irena Gharibyan and Clay Velasquez, amazed the audience with their fortitude in acrobatic prowess. Kristine Gregorian seemed to float like a feather as the Dew Drop.

Middleton demands the best from her dancers and in this production they delivered. The sets, music, whimsical costumes and grace of all on stage came together to make an exciting and memorable experience.

Taft Charter High School Vocal Ensemble, led by director Tom Pease, opened the show with heavenly holiday carols. The girls in red satin gowns and boys in black tuxedos with red bow ties created a festive overture.

Entertainment and interactive activities filled the courtyard from noon to 5 p.m., so youngsters and parents alike were ready for the dance performance in the evening. It was an appropriate finale to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Middleton's determination to change up her Nutcracker production — this time adding the afternoon festival — is a perfect way to keep a longtime tradition fresh.

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JOYCE RUDOLPH can be contacted at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.