FORT WORTH -- It's time to start shopping for a Christmas tree: The first Nutcracker of the season has been sighted.
Ballet Frontier of Texas presented the first of two performances of the yuletide classic at Will Rogers Auditorium on Friday night, offering a version of Tchaikovsky's beloved ballet that was exceptionally well dressed.
Acts One and Two had different choreographers, which is an unusual touch. The opening half was created by Frontier artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng, who added modern accents and humor. His designs were also noteworthy for their loyalty to the narrative. The choices he made seemed to be guided by a desire to clearly tell the story. And his overall plan was well suited to his cast.
The second act featured choreography by the late Roy Tobias, one of Tseng's teachers. His moves were more traditional, but not jarringly different from the overall personality of the first act.
The dancing was a mixed bag. The cast is made up of a trio of pros from Texas Ballet Theater (Paul Adams, Lainey Schilling Logan and Angela Kenny) supported by the mostly young dancers of Frontier, a company that places an emphasis on training new talent. So the visitors, and the more experienced members of Frontier's troupe, were quite able. But the training wheels were often apparent on the rest of the cast. There was one pretty good collision in the first act, for example.
Among the standout segments were the Arab dance and all those featuring Adams and Logan.
The most outstanding aspect was the costuming credited to a committee of five designers. The costumes worn by the children and the menacing mice in Act One were especially well rendered.
There will be more dazzling Nutcrackers this season. But because this one tends to its storytelling so well and looks so good, it is possible to overlook the modest ambitions of its choreography and occasional lack of precision in the dancing.
It has plenty of Christmas spirit and is heavily populated with children glowing with the excitement of being on stage. And that is enough to put us in a cheerful holiday mood -- especially this early in the season.