With her baby face and sparkling eyes, her coltish energy and sense of wonder, Deirdre Carberry may make the most adorable first impression of any Clara who has yet graced the American Ballet Theatre "Nutcracker" this season.
In the Christmas party sequence, Thursday afternoon in Shrine Auditorium, Carberry defined Clara as vibrant, spontaneous and touchingly childlike--qualities that vanished when the serious dancing began after the Mouse Battle.
Suddenly, in a transformation as dramatic as the Nutcracker-into-Prince metamorphosis of her partner, this Clara became a formal, grown-up, professional ballerina-at-work. Goodby first impressions.
Even Carberry's quickest, boldest steps now had no urgency or freshness--only a dutiful accuracy. Her arm motions no longer expressed anything but an imposed, coached (and rather overscaled) sense of design. Her face periodically changed--but as if she were switching masks.