It’s a holiday favourite for adults and children alike. It is full of magic, beauty and enchantment. There’s nothing like the nostalgic feel and Christmas excitement that surrounds a trip to the ballet to see ‘The Nutcracker’. On opening night, little girls and boys dressed in their finest seasonal attire scurried through the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with faces lit up awaiting a holiday tradition that has withstood the test of time.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s version of ‘The Nutcracker’, choreographed by Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon, mixes the classical Russian score of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with a few Canadian touches. From the first note, the audience is transported to a time when Christmas traditions were strong and the household of little Clara is a bustle with preparations for a Christmas Eve party. As the guests arrive, numerous presents are handed out to all the children and the excitement builds until the tree is brought in and decorated with care by the party-goers The party guests perform an energetic and thrilling dance as a company, which is a feast for the eyes and the heartstrings.
Working with Ballet BC, the company consisted of over 70 local dancers including young Clara (played by Daina Zolty). The youthful dancer’s spirit was infectious. As the night winds down, the stockings are hung and as everyone heads to bed, Clara clutches her newly acquired Nutcracker doll and falls asleep. This is where the magic truly begins. As the clock strikes midnight, the Christmas tree begins to grow and a young girl’s dreams fill the stage.
The Nutcracker (played by the exquisite Dmitri Dovgoselets) is brought to life and must fight an army of mice. I must say, the mice are more adorable than terrifying but can you really make pirouette-ing mice scary? In dramatic Canadian fashion, Mounties battle the mice to regain control of the childlike parliament buildings. The battle ends and Clara (played in Act II by Amanda Green) and the Nutcracker Prince travel to a magical forest filled with angels, fairies and dancers from around the world. These are some of the most famous dances – from Spain, Arabia, China and Russia. Sarah Davey and Eric Mipp’s strength shone as the Arabian dancers, as they intertwined with grace and ease. The ballet ends with the Nutcracker Prince dancing the infamous pas de deux with Clara before sending her on her journey home.
Bringing the whole show together was the stunning and elaborate set and the ethereal costumes. A certain amount of grandeur is needed to accompany the story, music and choreography and this set certainly did that. The costumes all blended perfectly to create a dream-like fairy tale that completed the picture.
There is nothing that will get you into the Christmas spirit more than a classic tale like ‘The Nutcracker’. It is a wonderful tradition to be passed on from generation to generation. Young or old, a Scrooge or a Cratchit, you’ll find it hard to stop yourself from humming the Nutcracker March under your breath after seeing this show.