IRVING -- You could gauge the popularity of a ballet school by the number of children they cram into that one show that makes the school the most money every year: The Nutcracker.
Coppell's Ballet Academy of Texas must be doing pretty well, in that case, because its Nutcracker, performed by its company Ballet Ensemble of Texas at the Irving Arts Center, spills over with the young ones. They're party guests, angels, dolls, candy canes and assorted filler characters.
They're adorable, to be sure (and a few of them showcase early promise, with respectable form). But of course you can't do a successful Nutcracker without winning performers in all the roles that count. On Friday night, that mission was accomplished.
This production, with choreography split between Lisa Slagle, Clarence McDorman, Tammie Reinsch and Allison D'Auteuil Whitfield (and the Grand Pas de Deux uses the classic Marius Petipa choreography), might not blow you away, but it's solid.
Yuki Takahasi made a lovely, graceful Clara (she alternates with Abby Granlund in the role; many of these parts are double cast for different performances). Suzette Kane and Daione Sanders nailed the robotic nature of the ballerina dolls in the party scene. As the Snow Queen and King, Courtlyn Hanson and Andrey Prikhodko had the requisite regal quality.
Sugar Plum Fairy Allyson March and her Cavalier, Dallas Blagg, earned big applause, rightfully so.
The International variations where a mixed bag; the Arabian was danced nicely but the choreography was underwhelming. The highlights were Chinese, led by a spirited Akihiro Yoshimoto, and the Hungarian, which showcased the best unison work among the corps de ballet.
Among the legions of Nutcrackers done by local ballet academies, Ballet Ensemble of Texas is one with which that you won't go wrong.