Ice ballet dishes out some ‘Nutcracker’ Nirvana

13 Dec 11 - Tonight - Adrienne Sichel

The usual ETA Hoffman suspects are all there: the dreamy adolescent girl, her fantasy prince, the eerie Herr Drosselmeyer and the living Nutcracker doll.

Only this time the characters, born out of Tchaikovsky’s music for the Russian classic, whirl around on ice.

It is extra-daring for director and choreographer Tony Mercer to take on this beloved Christmas ballet even after having notched up successes with Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

Comparisons are inevitable with the original Petipa/Ivanov choreography and everyone’s cherished memories.

Not without a few technical first-night world premiere glitches, this production is an artistic bonbon filled with delights, especially in Act 2.

Mercer’s challenge is always to transpose the classical ballet narrative and traditions to an ice show vernacular without com- prising the balletic original. An exception is the Snowflake scene in which the ethereal is swopped for the excessive, turning the dancers into gimmicky glow worms.

Set in St Petersburg, Marie (Anastasia Ignatyeva) and her parents, the Pavlovs (Volodymr Khodakivsky and Capetonian Fiona Kirk), receive their guests. Pa Pavlov’s barrage of pirouettes could outdo any prima ballerina. In Act 2 this couple literally takes off in the Coffee from Arabia variation in a sensational pas de deux.

The design is edgy and this Moscow Company delivers on seamless virtuosity. It is wonderful to see familiar stars Vadim Yarkov and Olga Sharutenko return as Drosselmeyer and his assistant and the Black Cat and White Cat respectively, with Olena Pyatash as a sublime Sugar Plum Fairy.

The Kingdom of the Sweets is a real treat, especially the Tea from China (Oleg Tazetdinov and Yulia Ashcheulova) which puts the “chai” into Tchaikovsky, a fiery Spanish dance and an imaginative Waltz of the Flowers.

All in all a memorable night at the (ice) ballet.

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