The festive season marks a special time of year for many reasons around the world. In the North it is warm meals and chestnuts roasting by an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose (and so on) but here in the South it is fresh fruit, long days by the beach and sun kissed skin. No matter the cultural norm we can agree that the annual production of The Nutcracker is definitely a hallmark for Christmas spirit. Tale as old as tradition itself, many make the pilgrimage to see the ballet – some for the umpteenth time and some for the very first. An air of nostalgia and excitement always fills the theatre when you attend The Nutcracker, as although you may know the story inside out it never seems tiresome to see the smiles and warm spirits of young and old coming together. Do you tire of watching fireworks on a special night? Of course not! What is life but a series of moments that chase the feeling of wonder. Anticipation is as addictive as nostalgia.
'Frocking' up for theatre is a favourite past time and this year I was enamoured to see so many beautiful and extravagant party dresses worn by the smallest members of the theatre. Safe in the opinion of many I would say one of the most beloved aspects of The Nutcracker is the importance of children. Children embracing the stage for the first time as a performer being watched by children attending the theatre for the first time. There is something so magical in watching a child look at such a big task and showing a hopeful look of 'that could be me'...
As always the set and the costumes make the show as magical as the dancers themselves and this year we have Thomas Boyd (set design) alongside Desmond Heeley (costume design) and Noelene Hill (Associate Costume design) working hard to change the homely feel of the Stahlbaum home into the magical land of snow and sweets. The set is adorned with giant mistletoe and wreaths, giving it a real feeling of Christmas. The land of snow is soft and delicate and the takes little more than the ambiance to really drive home. The cool brush of air that swept through the theatre was welcomed on a hot Queensland day and the 'snowflakes' softly falling from the roof were met with glee by young and young-at-heart as Clara was swept away on an enchanted sleigh.
The wonderfully talented dancers are donned in costumes that are so very fitting of their titles. From the tin soldiers to the Nutcracker, the Snowflakes and the Sugar Plum Fairy, the costumes have so much beauty to be found in their subtlety. Flowing skirts, perfectly placed crystals and plenty of sparkles woven through fabric and adorning tiaras. It's hard not to get a little giddy and imagine how special each young dancer must feel as they take the stage in these costumes. Again, that sense of wonder and awe fills your heart as you watch the glitter and glow through the Waltz of the Flowers or the dance of the Snow Prince and Queen. I would watch time and time again just for the beauty and sparkle of the tutu's under the light.
The Kingdom of Sweets is always a treat as the dancers frolic and play with the tasty delicacies on offer to Clara. A feast for the senses as we watch generous offerings of The Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russian Dance. Gentle humour has been injected in this year's performance and it gave such a light and fun feel. It can seem daunting to a small guest to follow a wordless story but light hearted humour is a language anyone can speak and let me tell you – there is something ever so amusing about a horde of giant mice doing the 'oh no, flee!' dance... Mother Ginger is always a delight as she twirls uncontrollably around the stage spinning out her children in her classic larger-than-life dress.
The technicality, strength and ability to make every move seem effortless just further proves how dance (and in particular Ballet) truly is an art form. What magnificent movement the human body is able to achieve and the silky smooth flow of the dancers as they glide through moments such as the Arabian dance or the grand pas de deux drives this home. I know little of the technical side but I, like most of us know what is a marvellous and seemingly impossible task to achieve and I can only watch in amazement as the dancers accomplish 58 acts of the impossible by the end of each song.
The Nutcracker is nothing without the music of Tchaikovsky and under the direction of Principal Conductor Nigel Gaynor is delivered to our ears like the sound of Christmas itself. The Nutcracker Suite has been a staple sound of Christmas and even with a hundred years under the belt still transcends time and space. In another hundred years this will still stand the test of time and I was so lucky to be sitting in a position where I could see the language Gaynor speaks with his hands. Each bell rung, string plucked and sweet melody was it's own gift.
In an ever changing world productions like The Nutcracker stay true to your heart and fill you with the wonder and magic of the season. The gift of nostalgia is bestowed upon the seasoned and the fire of possibility and awe is unwrapped by the first timers. Thank you to Queensland Ballet and QPAC for always being our Dr. Drosselmeyer, who turns up to the party and brings Brisbane the magic of The Nutcracker. If attending the show is not already a fond tradition you have created in your family and your heart, you should consider adding it to your wish list.
Queensland Ballet presents
music Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer Ben Stevenson OBE
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 14 — 22 December 2018