English National Ballet – The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker, Op.71 – Ballet in two acts to choreography by Wayne Eagling after Lev Ivanov, based on an original scenario by Marius Petipa after E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nussknacker und Mausekönig

Clara as a child – Micaela Infante
Freddie as a child – Matthew Cotton
Clara – Daria Klimentová
Nephew – Vadim Muntagirov
Nutcracker – Junor Souza
Drosselmeyer – Fabian Reimair
Mouse King – James Streeter
Mother – Jane Howarth
Father – Francisco Bosch
Louise – Ksenia Ovsyanick
Freddie – Barry Drummond
Grandmother – Tamarin Stott
Grandfather – Michael Coleman
Maid – Jennie Harrington
Lead Snowflakes – Laurretta Summerscales, Ksenia Ovysyanick
Guests / Skaters / Rats / Hussars / Soldiers / Mice and Children – Dancers of English National Ballet Students from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts

Act II Dances
Spanish – Senri Kou, Yonah Acosta, Adela Ramirez
Arabian – Chantel Roulston, Arionel Vargas, Tamarin Stott, Barry Drummond, Jennie Harrington, Jenna Lee
Chinese – Shiori Kase, Shevelle Dynott, Nathan Young
Mirlitons – Ksenia Ovsyanick, Fabian Reimair
Russian – Ken Saruhashi, Jane Haworth, Daniel Jones, Maria Sales, Madison Keesler, Araminta Wraith, Jeanette Kakareka
Lead Flowers – Laurretta Summerscales, Fernando Bufala, Alison McWhinney, James Forbat
Waltz of the Flowers – Dancers of English National Ballet

Orchestra of English National Ballet
Gavin Sutherland

Wayne Eagling – Production
Toer van Schayk – Concept
Peter Farmer – Designs
David Richardson – Lighting

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 11 December, 2013
Venue: The Coliseum, London

The Nutcracker, English National Ballet. Photograph: Caroline HoldenThere are few certainties in life but a Christmas run of The Nutcracker by English National Ballet is one of them. Happily ensconced in the Coliseum, it delivers seasonal pleasure all through the festive period before unveiling its splendid production of Le Corsaire for the first time in the capital in the New Year. It must be admitted from the outset that former director Wayne Eagling’s production, handsome as it is, is neither as coherent nor as satisfying as Sir Peter Wright’s for The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden; the narrative which sees little Clara conflating her nutcracker doll with Drosselmeyer’s handsome nephew in a pubescent girl’s dream simply does not convince. There is a child Clara and her ‘adult’ version (the ravishing Daria Klimetová) and there is a nutcracker dancer who is sometimes himself and sometimes replaced by Drosselmeyer’s nephew (the ever impressive Vadim Muntagirov), at times in his own blue costume, sometimes in the nutcracker’s red number, and finally in danseur noble ivory for the Grand Pas. Confused? Quite. Nor is the Act I party at the Stahlbaums’ clear in what happens, too much happening in something of a narrative mêlée with guests seemingly becoming puppets to perform a confused ‘pantomime’. From within this haze, pleasing vignettes nevertheless emerge, including Michael Coleman’s bossy, still dandyish Grandpa.

Matters look up considerably with the Battle of the Mice and the Toy Soldiers, which shows Eagling handling the stage with confidence, and contains such felicities as the toy soldiers momentarily knocked flat by a piece of cheese sprung from a mouse trap like a catapult. James Streeter is tremendous the Mouse King who follows Clara and the Nutcracker to the Land of Snow in Act II. Streeter is emerging as a dancer of rare dramatic sense and it to his credit that beneath the mask and costume, he can still exude bags of personality.

The Nutcracker, English National Ballet. Photograph: Catherine AshmoreThere is much to enjoy in the final divertissements, which see clever takes on the familiar Chinese, Arabian and other dances: Ksenia Ovsyanick smiled her way sweetly through the technically challenging butterfly dance of the Mirlitons and Ken Saruhashi leapt and bounded his fur-hatted way through a very Russian Russian Dance. The corps de ballet were alert and on top of their material as sparkling Snowflakes and expansive Flowers.

All eyes rest, ultimately, on the lead couple in the final grand pas de deux for which Eagling takes Ivanov’s choreography and embellishes it, adding extra technical demands and inserting fouettés, spins and most the shopping list of virtuoso tricks which perhaps audiences nowadays expect. It sits oddly, especially as Ivanov’s original choreography is so ‘right’ and purposely unflashy. This company, perhaps more than any other in the UK, should perform that original version, given that its founder, Alicia Markova, was herself one of its greatest exponents. But both Klimentová and Muntagirov are hard to resist in anything, their spring and autumn dance partnership showing a superb common approach – clean, clear and unfussy Classical dancing which allows the choreography to speak. Muntagirov impresses every time one sees him, and he exudes both technical assurance (those high jumps and silent landings must be the envy of all other men in the company) and personal modesty. Klimentová dances in such a natural, unforced manner, making sense of her movements in great arcs of motion, steps and poses drawn together with both intelligence and artistry.

Much praise for the Orchestra of English National Ballet: it played Tchaikovsky’s wondrous score with palpable enjoyment. Its Music Director, Graham Sutherland, continues to show what a dedicated ballet conductor can achieve.

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