The Royal Ballet
December 16th 2009
There is something quite infectious about The Nutcracker; no matter how many times you’ve seen it before the magic, sparkle and snow will get you every time. Everything glitters and resistance is futile.
The Royal Ballet’s production is full of magic, brought about by Gary Avis’ interpretation of Drosselmeyer. He is a dancer who compels you to watch even when he’s perfectly still, so give him a cloak and the stage and who needs the tricks ?
Everyone loves the children in Act 1, and the students of the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, danced with absolute joy, whether they were toy soldiers, mice or Gingerbreads. The Christmas Angels, present in all the important transformational scenes, are danced by the students of the Upper School, seemingly on wheels.
The first three scenes are full of props and tricks, and I thought that Paul Kay as Clara’s partner, at her parent’s party, danced with ease and easily outshone Harlequin, Columbine, Vivandiere and the Soldier. I’ve seen them all look sharper than this.
Once Clara, Iohna Loots, has defeated the Mouse King by bashing him on the head with her shoe, it’s time for a lovely pas de deux with Hans-Peter/The Nutcracker Ricardo Cervera. I’ve seen Cervera in this role many times and he always dances fully with the music, beginning the adagio solo with such ardour that Clara can’t help but melt. I’m not convinced that Loots is a great turner, and Cervera had his hands full keeping her on balance and avoiding flying feet. I do worry that Cervera is forever stuck in this role – with some rehearsal surely it is time for him to be cast as The Prince ?
Melt she does, and the Christmas Angels guide them to the Land of Snow. The corp de ballet are always impressive here, the swirlingly uplifting music, the brilliant white glittering costumes, the interaction with Clara and The Nutcracker, and finally all the snow – filling every inch of air if that’s possible.
There were some cast changes in Act 2 but our celebrated couple journey to the Kingdom of Sweets with the help of Drosselmeyer, arriving in the Sugar Garden of the Palace to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince. No doubt about it – the tickets sold out long ago because of the chance to see Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in these roles. Both started nervously but had the divertissements to master them.
The Russian Dance, with Tristan Dyer and James Hay, was particularly good, Cervera joining in – I like the way that Clara and The Nutcracker dance a soupçon of each divert. Avis is an instrumental figure again here – providing a clue as to the next dance or gesturing for the audience to be quiet. This he did before the Arabian Dance, where Johannes Stepanek was mesmerizing.
The Dance of the Mirlitons is an audience favourite, and Leanne Cope used every single beat of the music to maximum effect. Her facial expressions & her timing were absolutely on the money.
Laura Morera, as the Rose Fairy, brought vivaciousness and brilliance. The choreography suits her personality and she lit up the stage effortlessly.
Cojocaru and Kobborg hit their stride for the Grand pas de deux. Cojocaru is tiny but her arms have a regal grace which is so essential in this role. Kobborg is an exemplary partner, though I did think some of the steps had been changed, perhaps to accommodate Cojocaru’s recovery from injury. Nevertheless theirs is a great partnership, eminently watchable, though Kobborg in particular looked to be gasping for breath at times. Who wouldn’t ? The solos are a test for both – Cojocaru with the Gargouillades and Kobborg with fast turns and high jumps.
By the end, with the whole company on stage, everyone looks to be having a ball, and you’ll find yourself hoping for snow (it’s forecast) with feet itching to waltz out into the Piazza. What better way to twirl yourself into Christmas ?