Charlotte Kasner takes in Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s live screening
Picture House Central, London
December 30, 2015
There are two ways to deal with the rash of Nutcrackers that break out every December: either treat them as a classic marker of the end of the year or go for the novelty version. It is definitely the latter that Jean-Christophe Maiilot has chosen, starting his version in a circus.
Clara is a child of the circus so she falls asleep and dreams of running away to be a dancer. Not only that, her dream supposedly tells the history of the Monte Carlo Ballet itself. So we have a long and tedious first act set in the ballet class and the rehearsal room with domineering ballet masters, feuding dancers and a new choreographer who is a dead spit for Cruella de Ville. For some reason, Maillot inserts the last movement from Serenade (to his own choreography), complete with dancer who comes in late and falls over. A grave error. A giant transparent ball is rolled onto the stage containing a character in red dungarees who is presumably the Nutcracker. At one point he is shot and revived by Cruella de Ville plucking the bullet from his chest. Equally scary, Fritz suddenly kisses Clara passionately accompanied by horrified gasps from the dancers. Why? No idea.
Maillot’s choreography is frenetic with frequently flailing arms and bodies that suddenly jack knife (tush out as our American cousins say). Dancers are pulled and pushed around by each other and some of the partnering looked insecure. Maillot seems to need to illustrate every note with a step so that the few quiet pas de deux are a welcome relief.
Act II is the potted history of the company’s repertoire: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet – the latter told with a hideous puppet show and then ending with Romeo waking up the Sleeping Beauty to dance the grand pas de deux. It sounds and is, bizarre. Dancers run through the audience shouting for some of their entries for no apparent reason. Clara gets a solo having changed from her pink skirt and top into a drab grey dress – if this had any relevance, it passed me by. She is absent for the rest of the dancing until the finale.
The ending is certainly colourful, everyone rushing around in garish circus costumes, dragging an unwilling Clara with them.
The ballet seemed to be well received by the home audience but the rather thin audience watching it in London were less enthusiastic. One couldn’t help feeling that the dancers deserved better.