The Nutcracker – Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Director: Anne Maher
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Reviewer: Saoirse Anton

First performed in 1892 with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is a staple in many ballet companies’ repertoires and a firm festive favourite with audiences.  Telling the story of Clara, who is brought on a magical adventure through the Land of Sweets with her Nutcracker doll, a gift from Godfather Drosselmeyer, The Nutcracker has been performed by Ballet Ireland many times over their lifetime, returning this year with a largely new cast.

The pairings of Ryoko Yaygu as Clara with Philip Tunstall as Drosselmeyer, and Céline Le Grelle as the Sugar Plum Fairy with Miguel Suria as her Cavalier are well chosen. Their chemistry and complimentary dance styles make for engaging and impressive performances by both pairs; the pas de deux between the Fairy and Cavalier is simply beautiful as well as technically excellent. Alongside this, each dancer delivered impressive solo work, with Philip Tunstall’s enigmatic and charismatic Drosselmeyer standing out among the ensemble.

Despite these strong performances, there are a number of issues throughout the production, both with regard to choreography and execution. A wobbly lift here and an unbalanced landing there, along with a few instances of dancers in the ensemble losing time or placement, means that attention is at times dragged away from the story and the enraptured magic was broken. Other sections, such as the battle between the soldiers and the mice, though well danced, are not pushed to their full potential in terms of choreography. What is lacking in the battle dance is, however, soon made up for in the Waltz of the Snowflakes, a dance that is a delight in terms of both choreography and execution. Similarly, the short dance performed by Drosselmeyer’s doll (Clare Basset) provides fresh, interesting  choreography, which manages to introduce modern elements while remaining within the classical style of the ballet.

Not only is the dance in the Waltz of the Snowflakes impressive, the design (by James Rowse), with gentle flurries of snow and elegant drapes, conjured a truly captivating Christmas scene. Throughout the production, the design makes good use of backdrops and simple set pieces, with the twinkling Christmas tree eliciting happy gasps from the audience.

Ballet Ireland’s The Nutcracker 2016 does not show the full (previously demonstrated) potential of the company both creatively and technically, but it is still a festive outing for all the family to the magical Land of Sweets.

Runs until 19 November 2016 then touring nationwide | Image: Contributed

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