"THE NUTCRACKER," IMAGINE BALLET THEATRE, Peery's Egyptian Theater, Friday

OGDEN — After countless hours of preparation, Raymond Van Mason, Imagine Ballet Theatre's artistic director, has seen his dream realized.

In his new version of "The Nutcracker," Clara and the Prince do a lot of dancing.

Sure there are the staple divertissements — Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Mirlitons, Russian, Mother Ginger and, of course, the Waltz of the Flowers. And there is the famous Sugar Plum Fairy segment.

But what sets Van Mason's version apart from others is the fact that the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Nutcracker Prince and Clara get to dance a couple of pas de trois.

Another pas de trois comes into play at the end of the first act when the Prince, Clara and the Snow Queen dance amid snowflakes.

While it is inevitable that some of the choreography borrows form existing theatrical versions of the E.T.A. Hoffman tale, Van Mason has mixed things up a bit. And he's even made the movements more difficult at times.

Angels are part of the Sugar Plum Fairy court. There is no Sugar Plum Fairy Cavalier, and during the first-act party scene, there is a dancing doll as well as a dancing jack-in-the-box and a toy drummer.

Mother Ginger is up to her usual tricks with her Gingerettes under her skirt, but dancer Burke Stone doesn't use a wheeled cart or a papier-mache face. He uses athletic stilts to bounce around the stage.

Since this is Imagine Ballet's inaugural "Nutcracker" year, there are places where the ballet could be tighter.

The first act has some problems fitting all the dancers on the small Egyptian Theater stage. But Van Mason's spacing and choreography does its best. And to much of the audience's delight, he accomplishes his goal.

The score for the party scene is not edited. It remains true to the full-length work by composer Peter Tchaikovsky. It does run a bit long at times, and the boys could involve themselves with their toy swords, horns and horses rather than stand around waiting for their parents to arrive.

Overall, the ballet is strong and has a lot of potential. Throughout the years, Van Mason will be able to reflect and tweak the work and make it stronger. But that doesn't mean the company didn't deserve the applause it received Friday. It deserved every cheer.

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