Ballet West have done it again.
You always know when you get a ticket for a Ballet West production that it’s going to be magical. This time it was the Nutcracker that left the audience’s palms sore with applauding, and what a performance it was.
For those who don’t know about this renowned ballet, the Nutcracker is based on the story, ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,’ by Hoffmann which was written in 1816. However, in the late 19th century Tchaikovsky developed the story and the score to create a ballet with the help of choreographers, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The Nutcracker was first performed in St. Petersburg in December 1892 and despite mixed opinions at the time, it has gone on to become one of the world’s most prestigious ballets.
The score by Tchaikovsky has perhaps become the best know set of compositions from the ballet world and has been used within various traditional and modern mediums, making it arguably, the most popular ballet alongside Swan Lake.
So what is it all about? Well, the story of the Nutcracker begins on Christmas Eve, as a family and their friends gather for a grand party. In this group is a young girl called Clara, who the story will unfold around. But as everyone is enjoying the merriment of the night, a mysterious figure enters the room. It is Drosselmeyer, a local magician and a talented toymaker who has brought gifts for the children, including four lifelike dolls who dance like clockwork toys.
When the children are given their presents, Clara receives a unique and special gift. It looks like a tall toy solider, but it is in fact a nutcracker. Enchanted with the toy, Clara dances with it until it’s time for bed.
But during the night, after everyone else has gone to sleep, Clara returns to the parlour to check on her beloved nutcracker. Yet, as the clock strikes midnight she looks up to see Drosselmeyer perched atop it. Suddenly, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree grows taller and taller and so does her new nutcracker toy.
Clara is then taken through several worlds of magic and mystery which are ruled by those such as the evil Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince. One after another, these exotic and exciting worlds entrance the young girl, until eventually Clara wakes us and they are all gone.
But that is just the story, so how well did Ballet West capture its enchantment upon the Macrobert stage?
Well, they were incredible. Firstly, the Nutcracker is quite a complex story with many elements coming together. However, Ballet West transitioned between the scenes clearly and gracefully each time. The pacing between the various movements and performances was well placed and the whole night progressed smoothly and flawlessly.
The costumes and scenery were magical. It really felt like being lost in a fairyland. The tree at the party and the costumes of the guest were not only dazzling but gave an air of authenticity. Each series of costumes and sets carefully connected to the characters and represented the themes and emotions of the changing scenes.
But, most importantly of all was the dancing. As always Ballet West showcased an inspired group of talented dancers. The young Clara herself was charming and poised and held the whole thing together with the innocence of a child but the maturity of an experienced performer.
The Prima Ballerina and her Prince were captivating. They had such subtly, strength and control, yet it all seemed so natural and elegant. They commanded the stage with their romance and truly turned the Macrobert into a delicate and beautiful dream.
However, a very special shout out has to go to the very young cast of the Nutcracker, and most notably the little boy in the red trousers. This may seem a very odd and specific reference, but this young man seemed to be the youngest of all Ballet West troop, but what a performance he gave. He did so well and he managed all his tricky moves and stage directions and still managed to charm us all at the same time. Such capability is not only a tribute to the character and skill of the young dancer, but the nurturing nature of Ballet West itself.
So overall, the Nutcracker was a tremendous success and I am very much looking forward to the next time Ballet West comes to the Macrobert Arts Centre.
By Caroline Malcolm