sat 03/12/2016

The Nutcracker 3D, Mariinsky Ballet/ The Nutcracker, English National Ballet, London Coliseum | reviews, news & interviews

The Nutcracker 3D, Mariinsky Ballet/ The Nutcracker, English National Ballet, London Coliseum

The Nutcracker 3D, Mariinsky Ballet/ The Nutcracker, English National Ballet, London Coliseum

Here we go gathering Nuts in December - in cinema, on DVD and live on stage

Russian Christmas: The Act 1 party at Clara's house in the Mariinsky Ballet's venerable production

The seasonal Nuts-fest continues (and culminates) with another two to add to the roast – live: English National Ballet’s recent production, and digital: the Mariinsky Theatre’s 3D film version. To the cinema we go. This is the first 3D Nutcracker ever, following the Mariinsky’s 3D Giselle last year – and the screening of dance is a good thing, as few can afford to fly the world over to see a number of Nutcracker productions.

The 3D aspect makes the experience more tangible. The best moments are the aerial shots when you feel most interspersed, but as the 1934 Vassily Vainonen version was choreographed with the proscenium in mind, one loses out on the bigger picture when plonked in the middle of a snowflake circle. The production is also newly released as a DVD where the insipid use of pastels after a while makes all the differing characters meld into one.

Shklyarov Somova mariinsky nutcrackerThe real draw is the principal casting with the Mariinsky’s bright young things featuring Alina Somova as Clara and Vladimir Shklyarov as the Nutcracker (pictured right). Somova is an incredibly able dancer, but seems lost when not executing an extraordinarily high leg-line, or an over-180degree split leap. The in-between moments that make a true ballerina, say an imperial promenade or a majestic arm movement, are still to be understood value-wise. Shklyarov is less obvious, but not in a feeble way. He still shows the audience what he’s capable of technically but does so with a beautifully expressive upper body throughout.

Valery Gergiev directs the orchestra, and if you have a passion for Russian ballet, or Nutcracker in general, this venture should be seen, though the Mariinsky dancers' flat facial expressions translate as if they've been doing the same gig for years. For me the 3D aspect was beneficial at times, but highlighted the production’s dated feel both choreographically and design-wise more than anything. (Official trailer below)

daria rats enb nutcrackerAbove, Daria Klimentova rescued from the rats by Nutcracker James Forbat (photograph courtesy ENB)

Meanwhile in theatreland the London Coliseum hosts English National Ballet’s Christmas season, opening with Wayne Eagling’s Nutcracker, created with Toer van Schayk for Dutch National Ballet in 1996 when he was Artistic Director, and subsequently brought in a reworked version to ENB in 2010 as what turned out his final phase as the company's last artistic director.

The decadent-in-look party scene (aided by Peter Farmer’s picture-book designs) unfolds without any major hitch but with the odd query. One being the character of Louise (Ksenia Ovsyanick); she is Clara’s older sister and features to the point that one almost loses the younger sibling altogether. When Clara (Annabella Sanders from Tring Park School) eventually gets her moment with the Nutcracker doll the initial meeting is plagued by the whirring of the doll’s mechanics spilling out over the orchestra pit – reality bites!

Klimentova dances Sugar Plum like molten chocolate, linking each intricate phrase effortlessly

The transformation scene is a shade lacklustre which I’d put down to touring constraints – but is also the moment that Clara matures into a company dancer (Daria Klimentova) with seamless ease. The battle ensues with some unnecessarily complex choreography for Clara and her Nutcracker (the commendable James Forbat) amidst an effectual Cavalry.

The snow scene that follows is an icy affair with the corps de ballet in shimmering tutus adding to the glacial glamour. The first entrance of frosty, stage-devouring leaps is an electrifying start – but also a familiar one. And as the piece progresses it feels dangerously similar to the Mariinsky version – and unless designed as homage this could be deemed questionable.

Act 2 opens with Clara, the Nutcracker and Drosselmeyer (tastefully realised by Fabian Reimair) descending in a hot air ballon on arrival to the magical kingdom. The three then embark on a pas de trois which features innovative swing-like partnering/lifting, making the most of the two-partner situation.

muntagirov klimentova enb sugar plumA spirited Spanish number launches the diverts using classical vocabulary which makes for a refreshing change from the standard character-based versions. The Arabian dance features a grown-up Freddie (Clara’s brother) being subjected to all manner of disconcerting things by a domineering slavemaster and his four imprisoned concubines, who evoke veiled consternation stylishly. The Chinese skit is action-packed for three jade green warriors, and ends with Shiori Kase whipping herself into a spectacular turning frenzy - the Russian offering has less élan.

Clara’s sister Louise returns as a Butterfly (the mind boggles...) further questioning the point of the role – even though Ovsyanick executed the tricky solo well and was partnered adeptly by Reimair. The Waltz of the Flowers closes with apparent elegance, and all involved do the complex composition more than justice with clear patternings and aesthetic line evident throughout.

But when Klimentova and her true Prince (Drosselmeyer’s Nephew, Vadim Muntagirov) enter for the Grand pas, all falls into place. They are an ideal partnership (pictured above) – Muntagirov a chivalrous young whizzkid; Klimentova the epitome of an experienced ballerina. The pas de deux is faultless but with just enough risk to keep one riveted, and the solos and coda allow the couple to showcase their individual talents – Klimentova dancing Sugar Plum like molten chocolate, linking each intricate phrase effortlessly, and Muntagirov executing all technical facets with natural aplomb (more than deserving of his promotion to Lead Principal onstage after the performance).

Their level of dancing is masterly – and instantly dissolves any qualms one may have had with the production earlier. My star rating is for ENB's live production - the Mariinsky experience would only win two.

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