I didn’t book for The Nutcracker this year. Actually, I never book for The Nutcracker. It’s such a Christmas ballet, you’ve got to have the smell of Christmas in your nostrils before you buy your ticket, otherwise it’s no fun. And there’s no Royal Ballet Nutcracker this year either – they’re doing Alice in Wonderland instead. So I went to see the English National Ballet version, and jolly good it was too.
I went on the day before Christmas Eve, having bought my ticket at lunchtime the same day. It was an interesting audience; not many of the usual ballet crowd but a lot of big groups, mainly adults, who looked as though they might have been turned on to dance by Strictly. They all had a wonderful time, especially after spending the interval in the champagne bar.
The production is by Wayne Eagling, based on the classic Petipa choreography but updated and reinterpreted. It had a rocky start a few years back when it looked as though Eagling might not finish the choreography in time for opening night, but now it’s had time to bed in, it’s turned out rather well. It’s a traditional setting in Victorian times, with pretty dresses and soldiers straight out of a Victorian toy box.
I especially love the scene setting for the arrival at the party, with skaters on a frozen lake giving a feel of crisp night air and excited anticipation, and, of course, the snowflakes.
Our Clara was veteran ENB star Erina Takahashi. Tiny and delicate, she was perfect for the early storytelling scenes when Clara is still a child. The transition from actual child Clara, played by Louise Rigby, to Takahashi was seamless – I almost thought they were they same person. But when the grand showstopping dancing of the finale called for perfection of technique, Takahashi was easily up to the task.
My favourite dance scene in the production is the Waltz of the Flowers, with its charming costumes and inspired group choreography.
It featured two Japanese dancers – Junior Soloists Senri Kou and Kei Akahoshi. Kei Akahoshi is a graduate of the English National Ballet School while Senri Kou is a rising star, having reach the final of this year’s Emerging Dancer competition.
There’s still time to catch this year’s Nutcracker – performances continue until 4th January and there are still a few tickets available, or you can often pick up returns on the day. With Christmas lasting two weeks for many people this year (almost to twelfth night!), it’s a perfect Christmas climax.