For ballet fans Christmas isn’t Christmas without the ultimate Christmas ballet – the one where a magical toy nutcracker turns into a handsome young man, toy soldiers fight with giant mice, a Christmas tree grows to impossible heights, the heroine journeys through a land of snowflakes to the kingdom of sweets and most important of all, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince dance. What is it that makes Nutcracker such a Christmas must-see?
Well, for one thing there’s the wonderful music by Tchaikovsky, probably the greatest composer for ballet ever. Then there’s the choreography by Marius Petipa, the man who singlehandedly invented ballet as we know it today. Tchaikovsky and Petipa have a track record – Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are theirs too. Nutcracker features some of the great classic dance moments of all time, like the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Waltz of the Flowers and the magical snowflakes scene. And it’s set at Christmas with a big Christmas party and lots of rather exciting presents.
Not surprisingly, given its massive popularity, the Royal Ballet production’s already a sellout. But don’t despair. For every performance they keep back 67 tickets to sell on the day. You need to queue up at 10 am at the entrance under the covered arcade in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza and you can only buy one ticket each. The production opens tomorrow (10th December) and runs to 16th January 2013. They sometimes have returns too.
Plus (and this is the really good bit) they’re doing a live relay direct from the Royal Opera House to cinemas all over the UK (and all over the world, so if you’re reading this in Japan, you’re included) on the 13th December. There are over five hundred cinemas where you can see it – there’s a country-by-country list here – so you (and your kids) can share the magic.
There’s a good selection of cinemas in London, including the Curzon Mayfair, the Empire Leicester Square, the Apollo Piccadilly Circus and the Mayfair Hotel in central London. Slightly further out there’s the Everyman Hampstead, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Whiteleys, Odeon Swiss Cottage, the Electric Notting Hill and plenty more.
About now you’re probably starting to think, that’s great but this is a blog with a Japanese flavour so what’s Japanese about the Nutcracker? Well, nothing about the ballet itself – but there’s a lot of Japanese dancers in it. Four out of eleven dancers taking the sugar plum fairy role (across nineteen performances in all) are from Japan – so more than a third of them. That’s a pretty high percentage. Plus there’s one Japanese Prince. Here they all are:
Yuhui Choe from Fukuoka who won the Contemporary dance prize at the Prix de Lausanne (the most prestigious of the international student competitions) in 2002. She’s a first soloist, which is the rank just below Principal in the Royal Ballet hierarchy.
Akane Takada, winner of the Prix de Public at the Prix de Lausanne in 2008. She’s been off a lot recently through injury so it’s good to see her back. She is a soloist – the rank below first soloist.
Hikaru Kobayashi from Tokyo, won the Grand Prix in the International Competition of Vignale Danza in 1998. She is married to Royal Ballet Principal Federico Bonelli and is a first soloist.
Fumi Kaneko. She only joined the Royal Ballet in the 2010/11 season and this is her first big role. She was promoted to first artist (the first step out of the corps de ballet) this season.
And one prince: Ryoichi Hirano, winner of the Prix de Lausanne apprenticeship in 2001. He’s tall and graceful and has just been promoted to first soloist.
For the cinema relay Roberta Marquez and Stephen McRae will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince. It’s a great opportunity to see world-class dancers without paying Opera House prices. Book your place now.