Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Royal Ballet - The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
The Royal Ballet
December 16th 2009

There is something quite infectious about The Nutcracker; no matter how many times you’ve seen it before the magic, sparkle and snow will get you every time. Everything glitters and resistance is futile.

The Royal Ballet’s production is full of magic, brought about by Gary Avis’ interpretation of Drosselmeyer. He is a dancer who compels you to watch even when he’s perfectly still, so give him a cloak and the stage and who needs the tricks ?

Photo :  Bill Cooper

Everyone loves the children in Act 1, and the students of the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, danced with absolute joy, whether they were toy soldiers, mice or Gingerbreads. The Christmas Angels, present in all the important transformational scenes, are danced by the students of the Upper School, seemingly on wheels.

The first three scenes are full of props and tricks, and I thought that Paul Kay as Clara’s partner, at her parent’s party, danced with ease and easily outshone Harlequin, Columbine, Vivandiere and the Soldier. I’ve seen them all look sharper than this.

Once Clara, Iohna Loots, has defeated the Mouse King by bashing him on the head with her shoe, it’s time for a lovely pas de deux with Hans-Peter/The Nutcracker Ricardo Cervera. I’ve seen Cervera in this role many times and he always dances fully with the music, beginning the adagio solo with such ardour that Clara can’t help but melt. I’m not convinced that Loots is a great turner, and Cervera had his hands full keeping her on balance and avoiding flying feet. I do worry that Cervera is forever stuck in this role – with some rehearsal surely it is time for him to be cast as The Prince ?

Photo :  Johan Persson

Melt she does, and the Christmas Angels guide them to the Land of Snow. The corp de ballet are always impressive here, the swirlingly uplifting music, the brilliant white glittering costumes, the interaction with Clara and The Nutcracker, and finally all the snow – filling every inch of air if that’s possible.

There were some cast changes in Act 2 but our celebrated couple journey to the Kingdom of Sweets with the help of Drosselmeyer, arriving in the Sugar Garden of the Palace to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince. No doubt about it – the tickets sold out long ago because of the chance to see Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in these roles. Both started nervously but had the divertissements to master them.

The Russian Dance, with Tristan Dyer and James Hay, was particularly good, Cervera joining in – I like the way that Clara and The Nutcracker dance a soupçon of each divert. Avis is an instrumental figure again here – providing a clue as to the next dance or gesturing for the audience to be quiet. This he did before the Arabian Dance, where Johannes Stepanek was mesmerizing.

The Dance of the Mirlitons is an audience favourite, and Leanne Cope used every single beat of the music to maximum effect. Her facial expressions & her timing were absolutely on the money.

Laura Morera, as the Rose Fairy, brought vivaciousness and brilliance. The choreography suits her personality and she lit up the stage effortlessly.

Cojocaru and Kobborg hit their stride for the Grand pas de deux. Cojocaru is tiny but her arms have a regal grace which is so essential in this role. Kobborg is an exemplary partner, though I did think some of the steps had been changed, perhaps to accommodate Cojocaru’s recovery from injury. Nevertheless theirs is a great partnership, eminently watchable, though Kobborg in particular looked to be gasping for breath at times. Who wouldn’t ? The solos are a test for both – Cojocaru with the Gargouillades and Kobborg with fast turns and high jumps.

By the end, with the whole company on stage, everyone looks to be having a ball, and you’ll find yourself hoping for snow (it’s forecast) with feet itching to waltz out into the Piazza. What better way to twirl yourself into Christmas ?


  1. oh thanks for all that wonderful sharing. I could watch this ballet every day. Sandi

  2. Oh Elise, this is the first time I've read a critique of a ballet performance and I feel like I was there. Your writing is as full of movement and imagery as the dance. I've only seen one ballet and it was the Nutcracker done at our local community college with many of the dancers being children. It was not the Roayal Ballet but it was magical just the same.
    Christmas Hugs

  3. I love the Nutcracker! I've seen it so many times, always around Christmas. I was lucky enough to see it twice in Bolshoi, it was incredible. x

  4. Well stated. The Nutcracker is eternal. We are never too young nor too old to view it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I've only seen Baryshnikov's on TV. Would love to see this live!

  6. Musicians from the newly bankrupt Honolulu Symphony are playing together again for performances of the Nutcracker. They are so happy that even rehearsals are full of their passion!

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  7. What a beautiful critique on the ballet. I love the Nutcracker! Beautiful photos.. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I almost had a chance to see it this year but I didnt. There is always next year. Beautiful photos!

  9. Happy Christmas Elise....and thank you for giving a pat on the back to the mice!!!! My little one enjoys dancing it and it is a real challenge given the limitation of vision through the mask head!!!

    Bless you.

  10. My darling I wish you and yours all the joy, love, hope, blessings, peace, laughter, miracles, good health and boundless wealth during this holiday season and always.

    Love & Hugs

  11. I have seen it once and loved it. Hope you have a beautiful holiday season.

  12. Well Elise....what a year....I have so enjoyed your knowledgeable and enthusiastic opinions about the fabulous world of ballet.

    Nowonder you have over 600 "followers"....I feel privileged now to have been "involved" right from the outset.

    My daughter is also a regular reader of your musings and enjoys whay you say from an "inside" perspective.

    Anyway, here's wishing you a delightful Christmas and a New Year of good health, excitement and finesse....all of which you seem to demonstrate with such lovely articulation.

    Thank you so very much!

    Brian F

  13. Hello Brian - I wanted to thank you for all your comments throughout the year. I'm delighted that Ellie reads too - I'm sure she knows more than I do ! Perhaps one day I will be able to follow the students progress from an earlier stage; we'll see. Happy Christmas to you and your family, and thank you so much for being with me from the start, it's very much appreciated.

  14. CelticWoman - me too, I almost have recently !!

    Dawn - well, it's lovely of you to say so becauase that's exactly what I'm trying to achieve. I think that if you are going to read a review of a performance that you couldn't see for whatever reason, you should at least be able to feel as though you were by reading it ! Thank you for saying so !

    Little Rus - you were lucky then !

    C Hummel - thank you !

    Kris - I hope you do - there is nothing better at Christmas time

    Cloudia - that's great news - I hope you'll be seeing the performances ?

    Rachel Follett - Not next year at the Royal Ballet though ! This is the last time. Thank you for your lovely comment

    AudreyAllure - me too !

    French Fancy - well, I'm bowled over. Thank you very much !

    Brian - Happy Christmas to you and your family - I do hope Ellie wasn't one of the mice who snuffed it and had to be carried off on a stretcher (funny though it was) !

    Anna - I agree with you - thank you !

    Duchess of Tea - thank you !

    Just Breathe - thank you - you too !

  15. Having consulted my daughter, she tells me, wrily that she remained on foot throughout all her performances in cast A....but once managed to retrieve a sword which somehow came adrift. Her performances are now all over so we have her home here in the (frozen) North for a fortnight....lots of relaxation....and talk....(mostly about, you got it, ballet)

  16. Brion - ah, that's good then ! I'm always amazed by the incredible stage craft the dancers learn from a very young age - watching out for each other and the props as they go. Makes all the difference to the performance because it's not going to go swimmingly every time with all the props in Nutcracker ! I hope to see your daughter as one of the Christmas Angels one day - they seem to have the most ethereal, gliding movement which sums up Christmas. Not to mention a far better costume !!! Best wishes to you and your family for 2010.


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