City Ballet of San Diego, along with ballet students from Reno and Las Vegas, brought Sugar Plum and Co. to the Theatre for the Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood on Dec. 4.

As far as Vegas shows go, this was a step in a different direction. A company other than Nevada Ballet Theatre was onstage in pointe shoes and, contrary to the unwritten Vegas Code, there was an intermission. It juxtaposed the uber-production mode of the city as well, replacing figurative (and literal) smoke and mirrors with classically painted sets.

City Ballet performed very respectably, with smoothly produced acts and eye-catching dancing. The polished company was backed by ballet students from Jill Mattson’s Classical Ballet in Reno and the Rock Center for Dance and Henderson International School in Las Vegas.

Having the children and teenagers onstage alongside a professional company was one of the sweetest parts of the show. Coupled with toddlers in the audience in Christmas dresses and shiny shoes, it brought a classic holiday feel to this snowless city.

The classic storyline essentially stayed the same, with a fresh-faced Clara falling in love with her Nutcracker doll and taking a journey to the Kingdoms of Snow and Sweets. City Ballet embodied each role well, with demur, waltzing flowers, fiendish mice, dynamic Spanish divas and a long-legged dancer that performed the Arabian variation with captivating pliability.

The children in the party scene, comprised of Jill Mattson’s students, held up their end of the deal with bouncing choreography and age-appropriate hand-games and giggles. Kids from the Rock stepped in as cavalry and soldiers to fend off mice, further adding to the “cute” factor.

The Chinese variation, although only about a minute long, was performed energetically, backed by a ribbon-bearing corps from Jill Mattson’s Classical Ballet. Madame Ginger, with a skirt full of bon-bons from the Rock Center for Dance, featured a nicely coordinated corps of munchkins that was well received by the audience.

Aerial cartwheels and double fans made the Russian variation particularly dynamic and contrasted nicely with the fluffy emboites of the Reed Flutes. The Snowflakes in the Kingdom of Snow scene embodied the best of a ballet corps with excellent timing and symmetrical lines.

As far as classical variations go, Tara Formanek as Rose in “Waltz of the Flowers” and Ariana Samuelsson as the Sugar Plum Fairy shone through. The two each lent a sense of ease to their roles, an absolute necessity for strong classical ballet. Samuelsson especially displayed beautiful technique, demonstrating floating pirouettes and arcing extension with a yawning sense of effortlessness.

On the whole, Vegas doing “The Nutcracker” is an interesting scenario. Teenagers in Vans were interspersed throughout the audience (although that could arguably happen anywhere) and hearing Tchaikovsky playing outside the theater alongside jingling slot machines was, well, unique. If this is to become a tradition, a few things could be modified: having the Planet Hollywood venue added to the ambience of the show, but the $60-$90 ticket price and the one-night deal could be a bit off-putting for some.

However, giving aspiring dancers an opportunity to perform with a professional company is an experience that should be repeated and the producers could certainly do worse than City Ballet. Next time, if there is one, it would be nice to have the here for longer than one performance.

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