Every ballet company takes a slightly different approach to staging the beloved tale of “The Nutcracker,” and Portland Ballet wowed the audience this weekend with its take on what 1880s-era Portland might have looked like.

“The Victorian Nutcracker” opening matinée on Saturday, held at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, placed the story inside Portland’s own elegant, historical Victoria Mansion. The original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Ruggles Morse, throw a party where their niece Olivia receives a nutcracker doll. Then the fun begins. Olivia falls asleep and dreams – or is it a dream? This question is the beauty and magic of the ballet.

Olivia, beautifully danced by Katerina Weissbach, goes on an adventure with her godfather, performed by John Saccone. They encounter many dreamscapes.

In “The Battle,” where giant mice fought toy soldiers, Derek Clifford as the Mouse King offered a screwball-comedy approach to the fight. “The Snow Kingdom” had dancing snowflakes, snow flurries and snow crystals of all ages. New duet choreography by Artistic Director Nell Shipman was the highlight of the show. Amelia Bielen and Adam Sterr shined as the Snow Princess and Prince. Their lifts had a mesmerizing quality of floating and skimming through the air, and their demanding leaps and turns looked effortless.

“The Enchanted Kingdom of Sweets” was full of angels, ribbon candy, waltzing flowers and treats from around the world. Spanish Chocolate gave a nod to flamenco. The Arabian Coffee dancers, dressed in Turkish garb, had a slinky, sultry appeal. All the costumes, created by Jacqueline LeClair, JoAnn Haeberle and Jane Frank, were dazzling. The youngest dancers, appearing from beneath Mother Ginger’s oversized skirt, did a great job. Olivia danced alongside the Dew Drop Fairy, performed impeccably by Erica Diesel. Kelsey Harrison and visiting guest dancer Joel Hathaway danced the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

The magic continued after the final bows as the principal cast members invited the audience to come onstage. The looks on the faces of the children as they touched the tutus, talked to the ballerinas and had their pictures taken with them were priceless.

Jessica Lockhart is a freelance writer who blogs about dance at talkingaboutdance.blogspot.com. She can be contacted at:

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