Cork ballet review: The Nutcracker

The partnership of Erina Takahashi as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Jan-Erik Wikstrom as the Prince offers a masterclass in physical dynamics

Venue: Cork Opera House

Date Reviewed: November 21st, 2014

Website: corkoperahouse.ie

Phone: 1

Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 18:25

   

***

The Nutcracker, thanks to its setting at a children’s Christmas party, makes for an enchanting prelude to the festive season, and this production from Cork City Ballet keeps the promises of excitement and glamour inherent in what might, in balletic terms at least, be excused as a plot.

The story concerns the dream-like transformation of a toy nutcracker into a brave soldier-prince, and the subsequent transition first from the party scene to a landscape of snowflakes and from there to the glittering Kingdom of Sweets. Based loosely on a tale from Hoffman, the story has been knocked about a bit by various choreographers and directors: is the little heroine Masha or Clara? Is she simply a dreaming child or an adolescent awaiting the perfect prince to awaken her to womanhood? And basically, who cares, because what has remained triumphant through all the rewriting is Tchaikovsky’s 1892 score, supporting a choreography initiated by Marius Petipa, taken over by Lev Ivanov, and adapted by several others including, in 1968, Rudolf Nureyev for the Royal Ballet in London.

For Cork City Ballet’s well-dressed version, the choreography is credited to Bolshoi-trained Yuri Demakov, artistic director of the Bristol Russian Youth Ballet, who goes with Masha (Lucy Lowndes). Given this element of youthfulness, and despite a slightly discouraged Christmas tree, he has ensured that the ballet’s atmosphere of ebullient joy of living is expressed even in the tender sequences of the snow scene. He has also been able to rely on the company’s corps of accomplished dancers, so that the dazzling divertissements of the second act flow with a vivacity underpinned by confident technique.

Although the partnership of Erina Takahashi as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Jan-Erik Wikstrom as the Prince offers a masterclass in physical dynamics, what distinguishes their brilliant performance is their shared melodic sympathy, a kind of magic in motion.

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