Left – Lina Kim. Photo – Simon Lekias
Dashing and delightful is the experience at Queensland Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. The sparkle and polish are enchanting for all ages and attention spans.
Ballet is a bit like a circus: we want the dazzle and magic with feats of athleticism and dare. But how to keep audience attention when there is no script, and a soundtrack comes from speakers? Answer: imagination and originality. The Nutcracker achieves this through choreography, costumes and acting.
As far as plotline goes, The Nutcracker is light-on. This folk tale was developed into a ballet in the 1890s and features Tchaikovsky’s evocative score. Essentially, the two acts have a thread joining together vignettes of dance groups or duos flitting around to different music scores. It’s a winter Christmas complete with snow, hot ales, fireplaces and pine tree forests. The central character Clara (Mia Heathcote) is a young girl excited by family and community festivities. Given a magical Nutcracker doll by the mysterious and charismatic Herr Drosselmeyer (Shane Wuerthner), she later falls into a dream sequence of dancing mice, toy soldiers, snowflakes, and exotic characters.
The ensemble is varied and large: children provide gaiety, innocence and humour. The serious en pointe professional moves come from the company dancers and Queensland Ballet Academy’s Pre-Professional Program students. Performers play characters in the different scenes of the two acts keeping in time with the soundtrack recording.
Highlights include the dashing presence of Herr Drosselmeyer, striding about in cape and flourishes. This machismo appears again in the Russian Dance: a masculine ka-boom of jumps and leaps by Vito Bernasconi.
First-class ballet performer and this production’s artistic director Li Cunxin has applied his years of experience and lively imagination. This is evident in the attention to detail for performer personas in the first scene, where at least 20 dancers are on the stage at once. Every single dancer has a unique character and sub-story. This means every inch of the stage has something happening, and all through mime and movement. The effect is overwhelming at times, but in a cheerful manner.
Children attending in the audience stayed quiet and still; probably so mesmerised by the costumes and stage activity they forget about iPads and Peppa Pig. There is plenty for adults to like too: clever choreography by Ben Stevenson blends classic pirouettes and arabesques with contemporary steps to suit the mood of each scene. Audience indifference is impossible as the dancers pirouette and leap, lift and bend seemingly effortlessly. During the Arabian Dance, Lina Kim especially seems to float cloudlike with grace.
And the costumes... no wonder there is a team of professionals for this key element. Senior Costumier Isabelle Lacombe and the wardrobe team bring bling and class. There are delicate silks and sparkles on the classic characters of the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy and colourful creations for Mother Ginger and her children.
The Nutcracker has everything needed for a classic ballet: from the movement, to costumes and set – this production enlivens a charming traditional folk tale with a dash of humour.
Queensland Ballet presents
Choreography Ben Stevenson
Venue: Canberra Theatre Centre
Dates: 23 – 27 Nov, 2016