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Nutcracker: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Review by GERARD DAVIS
Limited season on film - £5 - until 6 January 2021
You’re guaranteed a good show with Christopher Marney and the artistic director of Ballet Central wasn’t going to let Covid-19 get in the way of that ethos. Not content with simply filming a staged performance of his much-loved Nutcracker: The Twelve Days of Christmas, he adapted it to take advantage of what film could offer. Thus, we have multiple camera angles, people vanishing behind Christmas trees, a genie appearing in a puff of smoke and, best of all, a super-sparkly wand for Sugar Plum. It’s all good fun and if you wait until after the final credits, you’ll find yourself treated to a special Christmas message.
There’s a story of sorts: modern-day Clara - dressed in a snazzy denim jacket - has a dream and finds herself in a magical land where she transforms into the white-slipped Clara beloved by ballet audiences around the world. Taking its cue from the famous carol, there are twelve days, or scenes, for Clara to navigate; all have self-explanatory titles (2 Mice-a-Jumping, 3 Fairies Flying, 4 Soldiers Marching, and so on) and all have their own individual dance styles, although classical ballet is the most prominent. It’s all put together incredibly well and this is reflected in the music – a choice selection of classical recordings of Tchaikovsky’s score interspersed with Duke Ellington’s wonderful jazz arrangements.
The dancing is pretty good too. Risa Maki holds the show together as Clara; her endearing personality and excellence across a wide-range of dance techniques ensure that. Her Nutcracker, Matteo Zecca, has a more ethereal role, floating around the piece without really putting his stamp on proceedings, but he has an assured presence and his turns a la seconde are impressive. Other highlights include a sassy Lucy Bishop-Laggett as party hostess, a fun fandango from Xholindi Muçi and Ruby Sweetland-Main (surely the most appropriately named dancer to ever appear in The Nutcracker) and some splendid corps dancing from all nine snowflakes. However, the dancing throughout the show was strong, characterful and there was no weak link anywhere.
This was the first time this season that the final year students of Central School of Ballet were able to perform together on stage and a huge amount of credit must go to them. These are extremely challenging times for all dance students, perhaps the toughest the industry has ever faced, and to be putting on a show with this much joie de vivre is outstanding.