Majestic achievement

13 Dec 11 - The Citizen Online - BRUCE DENNILL

The Imperial Ice Stars are simultaneously inspiring and a little terrifying.

The inspiring part is what audiences go for – the magnificent spectacle that has these dancer/athletes performing imaginative, complex choreography while telling the tale of The Nutcracker to Tchaikovsky’s timeless score.

The terrifying part comes in when you consider what the cast members are capable of. As an artist, you may be able to dance or act well.

As an athlete, you may be able to skate, or leap, or lift heavy things well.

Every person in this cast does all of those things for the best part of two hours, timed to perfection to hit their individual series of marks, and without apparent stress.

 Effort is evident, yes – you don’t spin another human being on the fingertips of one hand without expending some  energy – but stress, no.

The preparation has been done.

Why is this terrifying? Because in artistic terms, it raises the bar, and any up-and-coming performer who thought they may have made it has to now reset their targets.

 And in practical terms, it’s scary because, if you’re behind one of these performers in a restaurant queue after the performance and you reckon you saw the next available table first, they’ll be able to – elegantly – disabuse you of that notion in such a way that you won’t remember how you landed up, with your legs tied behind your head, outside on the pavement.

Superhuman physical capabilities aside, the Imperial Ice Stars and their various creative partners – choreographers, costume, set and lighting designers and the rest – have re-imagined what some audiences may feel is a Christmas cliché as something that melds precise balletic moments with ideas that suggest Cirque de Soleil.

 At times, the word “swashbuckling” wouldn’t be an inaccurate description.

Many of the performers are ex- sportsmen and women who have made their way into this more theatrical outlet for their skills.

As suggested by their performances, they’ve really earned their stripes before putting on their costumes.

Vadim Yarkov, for instance, who plays the forboding Drosselmeyer, was a member of the USSR National pairs skating team, winning 16 gold medals, 20 silver medals and nine bronze medals in the process.

And performs magic onstage – watch as he pours wine into a glass that appears to levitate on its own, or saves his assistant (Olga Sharutenko) the hassle of leaving via the side of the stage by simply throwing a cloak over her and making her disappear.

South Africans will also be proud to be associated with this production via another channel – aerial performer Fiona Kirk, who has represented this country at the World Figure Ice Skating Championships.

While her name may have many less syllables than her mostly Russian and Ukranian colleagues, she is no less adept at her craft, and her aerial work with fiancé Volodymyr Khodakivskyy is one of the highlights of the show.

In impact terms, this is the best production of The Nutcracker I have ever seen.

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