Seasonal ballet fails to charm
The Nutcracker; Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, December 12, 2007. I love watching all classical ballets but there's one for which I always have exceedingly high expectations: The Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker; Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, December 12, 2007.
I love watching all classical ballets but there's one for which I always have exceedingly high expectations: The Nutcracker. This is because I danced in two amateur productions of The Nutcracker, also at the Spa Pavilion, almost a decade ago, and still to this day have most of the dance steps etched into my mind as if it were yesterday, such were the fond memories I took away.
So it disappointed me greatly to watch the Vienna Festival Ballet's interpretation. Not that it wasn't without merit: particular highlights included the Arabian and clown dances in the second half, as well as certain moments in the Waltz of the Flowers, but over all, it left me with a sense of dissatisfaction; in short, I was underwhelmed.
The reasons for this were many: the prologue, danced to by three of the 'snowflakes', went on too long. Secondly, there were not enough dancers in the company to create the necessary buzz and excitement on stage, especially in the first half where it's meant to be a lively Christmas party. Granted, the Spa's stage is pretty small as stages go, but there could and should have been more dancers involved.
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Also, the storytelling was confused, in my opinion, especially the transition from where Clara falls asleep and enters the Rat Kingdom, to where her beloved Nutcracker doll is transformed into a prince. For a start, the Nutcracker Prince was wearing a blue jacket (everyone knows it should be red) and looked more like a pirate than a prince, and secondly, his entrance was entirely anti-climactic - there was no tension, no build up. Worst of all, he appeared when Clara was still holding the doll version, thereby destroying any fantasy notion that the doll had actually transformed into a human.
The fight between the rats and the soldiers was, again, pretty dull, due both to lack of dancers on stage and also under par choreography.
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Other minor annoyances came in the form characters. Drosselmeyer, who despite being a fantastic dancer in other sections of the show (he danced one of the Arabians and also in the Waltz of the Flowers) had only two hand gestures, one confirming, and one denying, which became so irritating that I had to look away. Clara, who also played the Sugar Plum Fairy, confusingly, had a habit of opening her mouth as if to say 'ta da!' after each arabesque or pirouette, which made her look as if she was chewing gum through the whole performance.
But the least exciting aspect was the choreography. In fact, watching it made me feel so incredibly grateful that I'd been a member of what was, two decades ago, the Janet Kinson School of Dance. Janet's choreography was wonderful; she was so skilled at interpreting the music into dance moves. In the Vienna version, there were so many flourishes and phrases in the music which were not taken advantage of and simply ignored.
The Janet Kinson Nutcracker may not have had such professional costumes, or set design, but it tore strips off the Vienna Festival Ballet version, choreographically. Such a shame to report negatively on a professional company, but this was my experience.