Art and About

A Nutcracker Feud: Team Sugar or Team Snow? Inside Houston Ballet's 24-year holiday tradition

A Nutcracker Feud: Team Sugar or Team Snow? Inside Houston Ballet's 24-year holiday tradition

When CultureBro Joel Luks and I visited Houston Ballet's Center for Dance to tackle The Nutcracker season for our Art & About video, we had one question: Team Snow Queen or Team Sugar Plum?

Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker, which opens  Friday and runs through Dec. 27 at the Wortham Center, has been enchanting audiences (one million people so far) for 24 years ago. In what story do you get a prince who gets two ballerina babes, the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy, plus a growing Christmas tree and dancing rodents.

And, there's more, say 200 pounds of snow.

 Curious. Could Stanton Welch secretly be on Team Snow? 

The big deal, of course are the roles. The Sugar Plum Fairy will be danced by principals Amy Fote, Melody Mennite, Danielle Rowe and Sara Webb; first soloist Kelly Myernick; soloists Karina Gonzalez, Nao Kusuzaki and Katharine Precourt; demi soloist Lauren Strongin; and corps de ballet member Hitomi Takeda. Snow Queen will be danced by Gonzalez, Melissa Hough, Kusuzaki, Myernick, Precourt, Rowe, Jessica Collado, Nozomi Iijima and Allison Miller.

The Prince, who gets to dance with both Snow and Sugar, will be played by Simon Ball, Ian Casady, Jun Shuang Huang and Connor Walsh; soloists Christopher Coomer, Oliver Halkowich, Linnar Looris and Joseph Walsh; demi soloist Luke Ingham; and corps de ballet member Charles-Louis Yoshiyama.

To get to the snow/sugar question we visited with future Snow Queen Allison Miller, who is always a joy to speak with and watch dance. No wonder she was named "one of 25 to watch" by Dance Magazine in 2011. The jubilant Miller fills us the nuances of the role.

Although she never admitted to being Team Snow, her enthusiasm proved obvious.

When it comes to Desmond Heeley's magnificent sets and costumes, Houston Ballet's production director Tom Boyd fills us in. But get this, he mostly talks about snow. No, not the queen, the actual stuff. According to Boyd, it's the best snow in all of planet Nutcracker.

Wardrobe manager Laura Lynch did not hide her feelings. Naming Snow's tiara as the most beautiful costume piece, we know where she stands. Lynch also helped us understand what a monumental task it is to costume the Nut

I ran into the chief, Stanton Welch, as I was leaving the building and I could not resist asking the question. "Sugar," says Welch, but I'm responding from my dancer self. All the women want to do sugar over snow. But snow has the best music in the ballet." Welch went on to talk snow for another five minutes.

Curious. Could he secretly be on Team Snow?

Dance lovers, it's up to you now. Team Sugar or Team Snow?

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A sketch by designer Desmond Heely from Ben Stevenson's production of The Nutcracker. Courtesy of Houston Ballet
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Now in its 24th year, this Nutcracker retains a lot of its original pieces. Courtesy of Houston Ballet
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Costumes are elaborate, using many fabrics and textures for a layered effect. Courtesy of Houston Ballet
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