I think I that I am pretty vocal about my love of The Nutcracker. I love that is the first ballet that many people are able to see, and is often the ballet that gets kids interested in ballet to begin with. I love that there are several styles of dance in one ballet, that the score is wonderful, and that it is truly a treat for the eyes. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is an incredible company, and their classic version of The Nutcracker is a Winnipeg holiday tradition that everyone needs to experience at least once in their life!
I wrote a quick history of The Nutcracker, in case you are curious as to how it became a beloved classic. If you haven’t seen it before (or read the book it is based on), it quite is a fun story!
The ballet begins as the main character’s (usually called Clara or Marie) family is preparing for a Christmas party. She is portrayed by a younger dancer, usually one who is between eleven and thirteen years of age. After Clara plays with her siblings, the party is seen to begin, with much dancing and merriment amongst the guests. Clara’s god-father or uncle (dependent upon the production), Drosselmeyer, presents Clara with a nutcracker as a present. Her brother Fritz breaks the nutcracker whilst playing with it. Drosselmeyer fixes the nutcracker for Clara, sometimes it will be done while she is present and other times while she is already in bed. Clara begins to dream, whereupon she is attacked by the Mouse King and his many minions. The Nutcracker rescues Clara by vanquishing the Mouse King in a dramatic finish to the first act. The second act begins with Clara waking up, now portrayed by an adult dancer. She is led, by her Prince, through the Kingdom of Sweets. The Sugar Plum Fairy also plays hostess throughout the kingdom, together with her Cavalier. The Nutcracker’s solo is first, which is followed by the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Several different nationalities are represented in the kingdom. The Spanish dancers are representative ofhot chocolate and the Arabian of coffee. The energetic but controlled petite allegro that is the dance of tea is the Chinese duet, and the Russians are the dance of candy canes, offering the audience a lively mazurka. The Waltz of the Flowers showcases the beauty and grace of those living within the Kingdom of Sweets. Clara’s prince leads her away from the kingdom, and the ballet finishes with young Clara waking up on Christmas morning to find her fixed nutcracker.
These are standard elements that carry across nearly every production of The Nutcracker! Occasionally it will take place at Clara’s birthday instead of Christmas, but for the most part, you will always see the pieces. However, while you might always see the Spanish pas des trois, you will not always see the same choreography. This particular production is choreographed by Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon, and is such a classical treat to watch. There are certainly different variations of The Nutcracker, but I think for the most part, the majority of us want to see classical ballet in it. The RWB more than delivers classical, beautiful choreography with impeccable technique.
Those Unique Touches
Many of us (me included) living in Manitoba are Ukrainian. Although I never actually took part in Ukrainian dance myself- I was at ballet class- it is still an energetic and fun dance to watch. This year, we will be treated to the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will be dancing in the Russian Dance, making for an exciting and local performance that only Winnipeggers get to enjoy!
They also have a few distinctly Canadian touches that I think truly set the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production apart. The sets are designed on a turn of the century mansion from right here in Winnipeg, and the show opens with some boys playing hockey on the road outside their house. (This does happen in Winnipeg!) The battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Prince takes place on a mini Parliament Hill with tiny Mounties coming to the Prince’s aid! We also have some tiny polar bears that appear throughout the Magic Kingdom, which is a lovely nod to the polar bear capital of the world which happens to be in our fair province.
A Family Affair
Not only is the show always welcoming to fans of any age, the show itself also features performers of a very wide age range. Each performance features a different local celebrity as a party guest, which is always fun to try and spot. This year, in addition to several local celebrities, Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding will actually be a guest in the show, a lovely way to feature our infamous Winnipeg talent! There are also many roles for children. Yes, there are the children that come to the Christmas party that feature in every production, but we also have the aforementioned polar bears and Mounties, as well as Angels who are helpfully on hand to help Drosselmeyer.
What I love about this is that it gives local children a chance to take part in a professional production, and get a taste for performing on a bigger stage. I was able to speak with the first cast Clara, Olivia Koppanyi, and Prince, Timothy Gaulke, and I was able to hear all about their experience so far! Olivia’s favourite part has been spending time with the company in rehearsals, and they have both really enjoyed the party scene (which is great fun for everyone but especially for Clara and the Prince!). Olivia is in level 3 of the Professional Division of the RWB School, and Timothy is in level 4, so I have no doubt that we will be seeing more of these talented young dancers!
If you are looking for tickets to the RWB’s Nutcracker, make sure to buy them directly from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s site! There are shows on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 7:00pm,
Friday, Dec. 21 at 7:00pm,
Saturday, Dec.22 at 1:00pm and 7:00pm,
Sunday, Dec. 23 at 1:00pm,
Wednesday, Dec. 26 at 4:00pm,
Friday, Dec. 28 at 7:00pm,
and Saturday, Dec. 29 at 1:00pm!
There are pre-show chats with dancers, musicians, and other production staff before each performance, as well as live entertainment and an artisanal market before each show. It is the perfect way to make an afternoon or an evening out of the show!