The Nutcracker 2023 Holiday Production: Hitting its stride

Ballet RI returns with its annual production of The Nutcracker at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Ballet RI, formerly Festival Ballet, knows that The Nutcracker is often a gateway cultural experience exposing children to their first taste of  both ballet and classical music, one of the most recognizable compositions by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The company manages successfully to cater to its child audience without detriment to the adults in the room. The 2023 performance is the third year with their newly reimagined choreography, culturally sensitive dances, and exciting new costumes. This year it is evident that the ballet continues to go from strength to strength as the company hits its stride, gaining familiarity with the production while enhancing it at the same time.


For the December 16 evening performance, student of the School of Ballet RI Emma Gaines portrayed a Clara who is the most age-appropriate dancer in the role that the production has seen in some time. She displays great dancing skills for someone so young and her acting skills make the excitement she feels during her adventures contagious. The control she exhibits as she interacts with the more senior players is impressive, so is the genuineness of her expression as she watches the other dancers as if for the first time. The mysterious Drosselmeyer (David DuBois) enchants the guests at the party as well as ticket holders in the audience with his magic and his charisma.

There’s always something magical about a night at the ballet, but when that night at the ballet is The Nutcracker it’s that much more magical. This is the night that, if done right, is the night a new generation of children, seeing ballet for the first time in their lives, will fall in love with it. And, if done right, will remind every other generation how wonderful and magical The Nutcracker is to watch, especially through the eyes of their children. This production did not disappoint. Any ballet that can keep a three year-old in absolute rapt attention, at a nighttime show no less, is a great production.

The pre-schooler we were with kept asking questions, with bright eyes and at times watching in awe, absolutely entranced: many adults were the same. Emma Gaines, the young girl who played the lead, showed such self-discipline and poise: There was a time she had to pose, frozen for quite a while, which is hard for anyone to do. The costumes and ‘animals’ dancing were a delight. The principals, including Joã0 Alves as the Nutcracker and Emma Guertin as the Sugar Plum Fairy, nailed it; surely, if there were any mistakes made, they themselves knew, but from where we sat, none could be detected. The beauty in ballet is how the dancers make something so demanding, athletic, and sometimes painful, look so elegant, graceful, and beautiful. Though the three year-old in our party has only begun taking lessons recently, this delightful production has surely made an impact on how she sees what she is learning.  

Whether you are young or old, a novice to dance, a long-time fan of Ballet Rhode Island, or if your only exposure to The Nutcracker has come from elevator music, YouTube videos, TV specials or viewing of Barbie in the Nutcracker, this is a production worth taking the time and trouble to dress up, buy tickets, and see this annual delight in person.

Ballet RI Presents The Nutcracker through Dec 24, 2023. Tickets: