"The Nutcracker" 1993 is unfailingly bright, fresh and exhilarating in Ballet West's treatment. Indeed, you sense that "Nutcracker," in the comfort of the home theater, repeating parts known so well that the highest polish is possible, is a reaping time for the company, and a chance to show less prominent dancers in new and flattering lights.

Each time I have returned (three times, to be exact) quality control has been exacting, as everything fairly crackles with vivacity. And don't forget to thank your lucky stars for the luxury of live music, beautifully played. The relatively new costuming and scenery bear acquaintance well, though some people are still carping about their pet peeves.The children with their enthusiasm add greatly. The party scene is tender and nostalgic, the soldier's march is exceptionally crisp and stylish, the moppets under Mother Buffoon's skirt irresistibly cute. And the Claras (this time in small-size edition) delightfully innocent, one and all.

Among special pleasures: a wonderful Sugar Plum-Cavalier by Lisa Lockerd and Ray Van Mason. Lockerd is tall, but fleet and willowy, with flawless leading-lady technique that she seldom gets to demonstrate. Equally fine is the grand pas of Maggie Wright and Christopher Young, who exhibit big-time poise, assurance and bravura; and Jiang Qi and Jennifer Demko are perfectly suited in duo, technically brilliant in solo.

In the showcase Waltz of the Flowers pas, Melanie Watts and Peter Christie display long, lyric lines, and Virginia Hagood and Jeffrey Plourde are gracefully secure. Elsewhere, Pamela Robinson and Richard Bradley reign over the Snow Kingdom with confident exuberance. Christie Freebairn and Robert Eberly, Dawn Meeker and Christie, all show sinuous Middle Eastern mystery as the Arabian soloists.

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The company is deep in pas de deux couples for this production - six possible grand pas, seven snows, five waltz duos. Of course, some dancers double on two or three of these parts; yet enough alternatives exist that one need never fear. Add to this the virtuosity of seven Chinese soloists, who all jump high wide and handsome; six Arabian duos, and four pert mechanical dolls.

With 39 dancers, Ballet West is not a large professional company; but with such versatile, gallant and accomplished dancers, from the newest corps member to the most prominent soloist, this company inspires confidence. At the risk of leaving out a few (and I inevitably will - this whole company troupes), I mention some team players who crop up in multiple guises.

Look for principals Raymond Van Mason, Peter Christie, Jeffrey Rogers, Jiang Qi, Christopher Young and Gilles Maidon wherever the need is greatest. Among the corps, experienced strength comes from Bridget Boutin, Lisa Choules, Rachel Del Valle, Christie Freebairn, Leslie Ann Larson, and Melanie Watts, J. Kristopher Payne and Cameron McNinch.

"The Nutcracker" continues its phenomenal success here and throughout the land. Most Capitol Theatre performances before Christmas were effectively sold out, but availability may be a little better between now and New Year's Eve.

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