December 14, 2017
The magic of Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a pantomime or a Nutcracker.
English National Ballet’s Nutcracker doesn’t stray from its own set of traditions, the good and some, it has to be said, not so good. It is a magical tale, although thankfully it is clearly laid out in the programme because one or two aspects are a little perplexing when set against other productions.
The young dancers from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, who feature as part of the joyous festivities of Act 1, are sweet and precise in their movements. Fritz can often be a brash little boy pitted against the innocent Clara, but this time it felt a bit different, and it far from stretched the imagination that the siblings could put aside their differences and watch the snow together in the closing moments of Act 2.
The youngsters also add vocal accompaniment to the Snowflakes from a box, side-stage, adding their voices to the scene, hands neatly folded. That remains a slight distraction from appreciating the deft flurries of the dancers, but it is a festive carol singing-esque touch to bring the children into the scene.
Lead principal Jurgita Dronina portrayed the Older Clara with a certain genteel-ness that lent itself well to the character. Her dancing was very strong and technically precise. Her work with the Nutcracker (Fernando Carratalá Coloma) and Nephew (Aaron Robison) started slick, with perfect extensions and both partnerships working well.
Act 2 brought a few problems, however, Robinson missing a couple of holds for the Sugar Plum. They weren’t the only mishaps, some elements of the show looking a little under-rehearsed. There were technical glitches too, including a rogue cloth left hanging halfway down during the Waltz of the Flowers, which dulled the shine of the overall Nutcracker picture.
Of the Act 2 divertissements, the Arabian dance looks outdated and in need of freshening up, revitalising. Still, despite the odd stumble, overall performances were strong, everyone dancing committedly and with vigour.
ENB’s Nutcracker remains a London family festive treat that audiences will return to time and time again.
English National Ballet’s Nutcracker continues at the London Coliseum to January 6, 2018. Visit www.ballet.org.uk for details.