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Swedish Royal Ballet – Nutcracker

 

This “review” rather tells the story than comments on the dance as it is a little different to our usual Nutcrackers, but none the less enjoyable.  Obviously being in Sweden it is a Scandinavian version by Par Isberg and revolves around 2 orphans Petter and Lotta (danced by Jens Rosen and Nicole Rhodes) who live with their 3 Aunts.  Uncle Blue (Joakim Stephenson) is a family friend (read Drosselmeyer for him) and he steers the story.  First off he takes the children to the woods to chop a Christmas tree down and they meet The Charcoal Burner (Dawid Kupinksi) who later morphs into the Enchanted Prince.  The housekeeper (Luiza Lopes) becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy equivalent.  Gifts are given out by the Christmas Goat (a Swedish traditional figure) but it is Uncle Blue in disguise and he is surprised when a second Christmas Goat appears and gifts a Nutcracker (shaped as a goat) to Lotta and a hobby horse to Petter.   The second goat reveals later that he is the Charcoal Burner from the woods.  After the festivities Petter and Lotta sleep in front the Christmas tree which is when their imaginations start to run...

 

Instead of the usual soldiers we have the Christmas Goat who along with Petter’s friends battles the Rats.  It was really quite funny at one point because a large Christmas cracker was hurled at the rats and after it exploded left one of the rats requiring CPR which was administered by another rat - it was hilarious!!  Then the Christmas Goat (Dawid Kupinski) turns into the Prince who is the children’s dream Father and snow starts to fall and come through the window in the form of the Snow Crystals, who are eventually swept away by the Housekeeper.  The snowflakes were beautiful with white tutus which had large silver snowflake shapes on them.  There was a Lead Snow Crystal and she was danced by Daria Ivanova – she was the best female dancer of the night for me.  She is very tall and did some wonderful  Italian Fouettes and just had a lovely stage presence.  After the snow crystals had gone the children climbed up into the Christmas tree helped by Uncle Blue and from here watch the goings on.

 

In the second Act Uncle Blue is surrounded by “sparklers” and then the housekeeper returns telling that she has killed the Rat King with her broom showing us a flattened rat corpse!  The Prince reappears and the housekeeper is transformed, by changing on stage behind Uncle Blue’s huge cape, into SPF then they watch as ornaments on the tree start to dance – Gingerbread Man and his lady, Candy Sticks, Christmas Crackers, followed by Petter who has 3 trained rats which were 3 men dancing in red pointe shoes and finally some Snowmen.  The 3 Aunts then sleep walk into the scene (to the Arabian dance music) and are ushered back to bed, and finally the Flowers from the wallpaper dance a beautiful waltz – I think there were a dozen couples dancing the waltz which was very nice.  All dreams must come to an end and the children are woken on Christmas Day and set off to Church on a sleigh which was very cleverly done by having 2 fake horses driving towards the back of the stage so they looked almost real.  The grand PDD was danced by Kupinksi and Lopes and I have to say that Kupinksi must have been on the stage for 80-90% of the time and danced his socks off.  He was very good.  I was not so enamoured with Lopes after having seen Ivanova but she danced nicely enough.  Also she did not have a tutu but a night dress style dress (rather like Juliet in R&J) so that was a disappointment for me!  The children also had a live poodle on the stage and the dog was very well behaved!! The orchestra played beautifully under the baton of Oksana Lyniv (I think!).

 

I noticed from the programme that the Swedish Royal Ballet is due to premiere Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland on 6 May 2016 so that would be a good excuse if anyone fancied a trip to Stockholm.  The Opera House where the ballet was performed is beautiful – similar to the Opera Garnier in Paris  and it too has a fabulous Golden Foyer – full of gilt and chandeliers quite something to see!  One tip be careful where you sit – I sat on the end of a row on the second tier and had my view blighted by a huge handrail SO annoying – so avoid end seats as there was no warning when I selected the seat online!

 

Whilst in Stockholm I took the chance to visit the Dance Museum there as they have a small exhibition dedicated to Swan Lake – it was mainly costumes on display along with video loops of 6 different productions of Swan Lake, Mats Ek’s looked weird, but I enjoyed watching the clips of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake.  They also had a little bit on the Dying Swan and one of the videos was the wonderful Paul Ghislain from The Trocks performing their unique version!  In the shop I bought myself a swan shaped tea strainer... as you do!  Whatever next?!   The Dance Museum has recently moved premises and now charges 60Kr (about £5 if that) to enter and also as it is now smaller they have no room for their wonderful bronze sculpture of Galina Ulanova- I had hoped to see this again but was told it is in storage.  On display in the main gallery was a nice portrait of a ballerina who had recently died I asked her name but I am not sure it sounded like Rush? The rest of the gallery has costumes and miniature set displays amongst many other stage and theatre items and is worth a visit.

Edited by Don Q Fan
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Yes Timmie they certainly did dance en pointe and for most of their piece too. They were also on long red ribbon leads/reins held by Petter. There were quite a few laugh out loud moments in this performance which was really nice. Nutcracker hasn't always been a favourite of mine I first saw the RB version which I didn't like that much due to the lack of dance in Act 1, I only really started to like it after seeing SB Berlin's version by Patrice Bart..it was quite "dark" but from then on it's grown on me...I do love the music and it was really well played here.

Edited by Don Q Fan
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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you very much for posting your report on Par Isberg's "Nutcracker".  I remember him as a charming dancer when I first visited Stockholm in 1983 as Mary Skeaping's assistant.  I had heard that he had been choreographing for the company in recent years and his take on "Nutcracker" sounds very entertaining!  It is also good that the Dance Museum has found another home.  In 1983, it was housed in a very grand mansion in the embassy district but then had to downsize dramatically to a building near the Opera House but had to move out of there at very short notice a couple of years ago.  It is a pity it seems it has had to downsize again as the museum holds a wealth of memorabilia and archive material.  The dancer who recently died (aged 95) was Ellen Rasch, principal of the Royal Swedish Ballet in the 1940s and 50s.  Although Swiss born, she had her entire training at the ballet school attached to the company.  She was related to Albertina Rasch, the Viennese dancer who had her own female ballet troupe in America during the 1920s and 1930s.  I last saw Ellen in 2006 when she was 85 years old, still looking youthful and glamorous.  Her autobiography was published about twenty years ago but I think it is only available in Swedish.  I remember Mary Skeaping telling me that Ellen Rasch was not technically the strongest of dancers, although she danced the classics, but she was very good dramatically and had great success as Giselle, first in Antony Tudor's production for the company and then in Mary's. 

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