The Nutcracker brings joyful experience to the NAC

As winter descended on Ottawa over the past week, nothing could bring more holiday cheer than the magic of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, performed by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. In the sold out opening night performance, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet brought light and warmth to the cold winter night. It was a dazzling show of lights, laughter, and truly wonderful dancing as choreographer Galina Yordanova brought Tchaikovsky’s musical composition to life.

Despite the traditional setting being in Russia, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet brought this classic tale home to Canada as they incorporated many aspects of Canadian culture into the plot and choreography. The ballet opened with a scene of Clara (Sophia Lee), the lead character, and her family, playing hockey in their front yard. Then, as Clara and her Nutcracker (who has come to life in her dream) fight the Mouse King, a contingent of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers arrives to help them win the battle (which is also fought in front of a enlarged toy castle, conspicuously resembling the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa). Although these Canadian elements made the production more meaningful to the family-oriented audience, it resulted in a somewhat incongruous execution of the classic Russian tale that Tchaikovsky attempted to convey through his music. Given the style of the music, it seemed jarring and out of place to have a hockey tournament taking place where there has typically been the Nutcracker’s character preparing his family-friend’s home in 19th century Russia.

Despite the curious Canadian interpretation of the plot, the artistic aspects of the dancers’ performances were truly magical. The dancers had wonderful expression, which made the performance more realistic. The audience could feel what the dancers were feeling, from the fiery excitement Aunt Josephine was emanating during the Christmas party, to Clara’s whimsical bliss as she danced with her Nutcracker in the lovely pas de deux. The emotions the performers gave off were contagious, and the audience was held captive by the dancers throughout the entire performance.

The technical aspects of the dancing went above and beyond all expectations had by the audience. Other than a few minor slips and spills, the execution of the dancing was wonderful. Lee held everyone in suspense as she flawlessly performed her piqués and fouettés with exceptional ease. The ballerinas’ pointe work was beautiful, and reflected the different moods of Tchaikovsky’s music. It was a successful technical presentation, from the strong gusto of the Trepak to the dreaminess of the Waltz of the Flowers.

Appropriate and dazzling for all ages, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker was joyful experience for all. There was something for everyone, whether you were there for the technical ballet or for the hungry bear in the family scene (which easily brought the most laughter). The Nutcracker fulfilled its duty to yet again be part of a family tradition for many, and with sweeping applause, it brought the Christmas season to Ottawa.