The Nutcracker dance review: The perfect Chanukah treat

Festive fun at the Royal Opera House


©Asya Verzhbinsky

The Nutcracker


Royal Opera House

It’s that time of year again…The Nutcracker is back to bring us some festive fun on these cold winter nights and the Royal Ballet’s current production at the Royal Opera House makes the perfect Chanukah treat.

Happily, the restrictions imposed during the Covid outbreak are now behind us: there are plenty of children dancing away in the Act I party scene and the beautiful Waltz of the Snowflakes is back with 24 dancers instead of a meagre 16. The waltz is surely the most intricate and complex dance for the company’s corps de ballet and the dancers respond magnificently to the wonderful music.

The music is certainly one of the highlights of the ballet: Tchaikovsky produced some of his most memorable tunes for this work. I would challenge anyone not to be able to hum at least six melodies from the ballet.

The sets are enchanting and clever eyes will spot that the Sugar Garden in the Kingdom of Sweets in Act II is identical to the large cake wheeled on for the guests at the party in Act I.

On opening night, Sae Maeda was a sweet Clara, making more of an impression during Act II than in her early dances. Her Nutcracker was Joseph Sissens, giving a powerful performance with lovely elevation coupled with sheer joy in every movement.

The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince only make an appearance in Act II but have one of the trickiest pas de deux in the classical repertoire. It is exhausting, with difficult lifts requiring supreme skills of balance and stamina. Then follows the famous variations and a flashy coda, so dancers must be on tip-top form to get through it. Fumi Kaneko and William Bracewell made light work of it, combining Kaneko’s delicacy with Bracewell’s strength. Her solo had a crystalline beauty (though the notoriously difficult gargouillades proved troublesome) and she shone throughout.

Peter Wright’s production may be nearly 40 years old (and has been subject to a few tweaks along the way) but it has stood the test of time and is hard to beat.

The Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker is at the Royal Opera House until 13 January, with a live cinema relay on 12 December

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