Having started to feel the gelid blanket of festive romance that comes with winter descending, I was hugely anticipating the Vienna Festival Ballet company’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s seasonal opus ‘The Nutcracker’ (The Grand Opera House).
First premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre St Petersburg during the Christmas of 1892 and Perhaps most widely known for its celesta driven “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Act II, the nutcracker has since become one of the world most eminent and adored ballets.
The first act starts with an infectiously affable christmas party; the jaunty cast doing a sterling job of bringing the modest set to life in a cavorting combustion of humour and slapstick magic tricks. It was easy to become invested in the marriage of Tchaikovsky’s composition (even in lieu of an orchestra and with a rather unsatisfactory sound arrangement) and the exuberance of the talented VFB’s dancers.
The fanciful scenes of the giant mice sparring with the soldiers were amusing and whimsical, thanks to some inspired costume design and great technical ability from the dancers. The first act, on the whole, operates as a vehicle to display the lighthearted, comedic setup to what is (from an adult’s perspective at least) a quite brilliantly bizarre fable.
Act II sees much more of a showcase of dance, at times hugely impressive, with Clara and the Nutcracker Prince standing out with dazzling aplomb. I found the highlight to be the Arabian dance, showcasing some explosive athleticism, vigour and stirringly synchronised suppleness. Really quite visually arresting stuff, demonstrating doubtless talent.
The whole production was a lot of fun to watch. It came without the elitism of the often painstakingly pokerfaced ballet which may come as more digestible to some but could perhaps be lost on the more enthusiastic reveller of dance. A heartwarming and festive alternative to the christmas panto.