The Nutcracker is the single best way to spread holiday cheer (except, of course, singing loud for all to hear). It’s a classic ballet and a festive one at that. When I was asked to review the Richmond Ballet and Stoner Winslett’s rendition of The Nutcracker I was thrilled and incredibly honored. They wanted me? Embarrassingly enough this was my first ballet ever, I’m more of a musical theater kind of girl. However, what better way to start out the holiday season than with sugar plum fairies and snow queens?

What most people do not know is that the Richmond Ballet is also known as the State Ballet of Virginia (even though it is located in Richmond, VA) and performs alongside the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, which is located right here in Norfolk! It’s such a good feeling knowing how tight knit our community is and what a legacy Norfolk has created.

Now about the play, ah…where to begin. It was the most magical, festive, and bright display of performing that I have ever witnessed. The costumes, oh the costumes! My eyes were glistening while I watched in awe at the dancers spinning around in their vibrant colored dresses and suits. I was drawn to the colors of the garments like a raccoon to metal, I could not take my eyes off of them.

The set design was perfection. I imagined myself twirling around in the “snow”, which gently floated from the ceiling in the Enchanted Snow Forest with the Snow Queen. The snowflakes falling was the perfect 2D experience to the ballet. The ginormous Christmas Tree in scene one was truly a tower of Christmas magic My absolute favorite set design was The Kingdom of Sweets, it was exactly as I had imagine it would look (on a stage) when I was a little girl, something out of Katy Perry's music video "California Gurls". Each scene I felt like I was there, in the middle of all the dancing and music. I, honestly, could not give enough praise to the set designers, well done!

Last, but certainly not least, the main attraction…the dancers. They were all mesmerizing, to say the least. From the youngest performer, to the eldest, they were all incredibly talented. I was enamored at how on point the younger dancers were, even with their acting. These kids had to be in Middle School or younger. I can barely remember what I said five seconds ago let alone remembering a whole dance routine, it was astonishing.

After doing a little research on where these child prodigies were created I came across a page called Minds in Motion which is an outreach program for children that is affiliated with the Richmond Ballet. Children all across the Commonwealth have the opportunity to audition for spots in different ballets. They recently hosted a residency for 130 fourth graders in Portsmouth, the first (of many) in Hampton Roads. Who knew that the tiny dancers who mesmerized me for over an hour came from my own community. Talk about homegrown.

I owe all my gratitude and thanks to the Regional Coordinator for inviting me to the opening night of Stoner Winslett’s The Nutcracker. It truly set the tone for the rest of my holiday season, Merry and Bright.