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I thought that ENB opened on strong form last night.

 

 

Shiori Kase was a delightful Clara and an accomplished SPF, Cesar Corales made a promising debut as the Nephew/Prince and James Forbat was a very good Nutcracker. James Streeter is a forceful Mouse King, bringing the necessary fear into the battle but also a lighter touch to the character. Ksenia Ovsyanick was simply glorious in her long solo to the Mirlitons music and garnered huge applause.

 

The other named characters were full of pep., both children and adults played the party scene believably and the bigger corps pieces (the Snowflakes and the Flowers) were well-coordinated and beautifully led by Alison McWhinney and Laurretta Summerscales.

 

I have now seen this production a number of times and am less troubled by the storyline switches of the Nutcracker and the Nephew/Prince; but I still wish that one male dancer could take both roles. Conversely, the child Clara disappears quite early here so that we have the ballerina on for the mice , the battle and all that follows. I like that, especially when the adult Clara maintains the character as a child (as Shiori did) until the grandeur of the final pas de deux shows her as a woman.

 

There are some very interesting casts in store in the weeks ahead including both established stars and more junior dancers and I hope to be reading what people on here think about this Nutcracker as well as the RB’s one.

 

[My earlier attempt to post something more substantive failed at the hands of my pc - lesson learned: type in word and copy and paste in future!!!!!]

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[My earlier attempt to post something more substantive failed at the hands of my pc - lesson learned: type in word and copy and paste in future!!!!!]

 

Yep - always by far the best option!  Sometimes the site Autosaves, sometimes it doesn't.

 

Anyway, thanks for posting and starting the thread off.

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I was at the dress rehearsal the evening before opening night. Here are some photos:
 
23183309553_1fa8340d87_z.jpg
Snowflakes
© Dave Morgan.
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
23183144223_be0a141e15_z.jpg
Rose Waltz
© Dave Morgan.
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
23441893249_fe13337905_z.jpg
Shiori Kase, Cesar Corrales
© Dave Morgan.
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...
Set from DanceTabs: ENB - Nutcracker (2015)
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Last night's opening performance  of the Nutcracker had me smiling from the moment the curtain went up. Having seen this production several times in previous years, and having been to two performances at RB already this season, I expected to be somewhat blase in my reaction. Not a bit of it. Everything looked fresh, bright and alluring. The ice skaters at the beginning set the wintry scene well. The guests at the party were ready to celebrate Christmas with gusto and the children were excitable in anticipation of what Christmas was going to bring.

 

Once again, the children from Tring are an important element and they excelled themselves last night. Sometimes I have a bit of a problem with children on the stage (I remember some cringemaking moments in some Russian productions), but these young dancers knew their steps, executed them in unison and acted well also. The young Clara, Cheryl Heung, was splendid and held the stage in a long solo in front of her nutcracker doll. If she continues to develop her talent she will be a name to look out for in the future.

 

The 'adult' Clara, Shiori Kase was outstanding. She danced with great poise and sensitive characterisation and, in the final pdd, she blew us away with her double and triple fouettes. James Forbat was very polished as the Nutcracker which, in this production, is quite a significant part. The battle scene with the mice was handled really well. Here the mice are creatures to be tangled with, one feels that they are a threat, unlike the RB mice which are all small and seem more timid. The Mouse King, James Streeter, is masterful in portraying the character and pursuing Clara.

 

The Prince, making his debut in London was Cesar Corrales. He is an astonishingly capable dancer technically, with high leaps and dramatic turns and provided his ballerina with a secure pair of hands. At 19 he is an impressive talent already. He has wowed provincial audiences in the last few weeks with his masterful Mercutio in Rudolf Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet.

 

Yonah Acosta once again impressed in the Russian dance, bringing gasps from some members of the audience in his final flourish. I agree with has been said above about Ksenia Ovsyanick - just wonderful.

 

Last but not least, I thought the Snowflakes and Flowers were beautifully in sync with the music and one another

 

All in all the Company was on good form. Wayne Eagling was in the audience and I am sure he was pleased to see his production in such good hands and being performed so well.

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Even if you're not going to see Nutcracker it's worth popping into the Coliseum to see the amazing Christmas tree made out of pointe shoes which was designed and constructed by Amber Hunt (a company dancer) and Arnaud Stephenson (together aka Photography by Ash). It looks amazing in the photographs.

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Took my ten year old daughter last night, and Alina Cojacura was dancing Clara, she was wonderful in the first act, then in the interval they announced that Tamara Rojo would be playing Clara in the second act! I don't know if it was as a result of an injury (and I hope if that was the case it was nothing too serious) but you can imagine our excitement. To have the opportunity to see her dance was something we hadn't expected and we were not disappointed. What a Christmas treat!

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Two for the price of one :)  Hope Alina's not injured, and that it's just a precaution, though.

Unfortunately it was an injury, as announced. It occurred before the show and her dancing the first act has been defined "a miracle" at stage door ...even if it was impossible to guess she was injured when on stage. Let's hope it's not serious.

Rojo and Hernandez danced without previous rehearsals (just a few minutes in the interval) and so also their performance together can be called "a miracle": the pdd was excellent.

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ENB has just tweeted that Alina and James Forbat (as the Nutcracker) will be replaced by Tamara and Max Westwell tomorrow due to a 'minor injury' sustained by Alina. Fingers crossed that Alina will be able to dance her other scheduled performances which I think will not be until the new year. I believe that Tamara is dancing this evening as well.

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ENB has just tweeted that Alina and James Forbat (as the Nutcracker) will be replaced by Tamara and Max Westwell tomorrow due to a 'minor injury' sustained by Alina. Fingers crossed that Alina will be able to dance her other scheduled performances which I think will not be until the new year. I believe that Tamara is dancing this evening as well.

 

Loipa Araujo said yesterday that Alina was having a scan to her ankle today, so "minor injury" could be based on that and is good news. That Cojocaru could be performing tomorrow it was unlikely, but ENB words are encouraging for the next future.

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I didn't hear the announcement about Alina's injury during the show, fingers crossed it's nothing too serious. Wow, incredible they only rehearsed during the interval. Daughter was over the moon to see Tamara's Fouettes in real life (she has spent hours looking at them on Youtube). The Snowflakes were sublime too.

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How on earth did TJ get made-up, dressed and warmed up in time?

 

It is said that she knew the possibility of having to go on before the show started. But well done to her, especially as, by the end of tonight, she will have danced Act 2 on Monday and the whole show on Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

Best wishes to Alina for a speedy recovery.

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I always wonder what happens in case of injury or illness. Does a substitute for every dancer have to stay in the theatre until the end of the performance? A few years ago I remember reading that Sarah Lamb was suddenly taken ill in a performance of The Nutcracker and Marienela Nunez, who happened to be in the audience, got changed and replaced her. I was surprised that a replacement was not backstage. The way I read the account was that it was fortunate that Marienela was in the theatre that evening, but perhaps she was the replacement and she had enough time to watch Act 1 and get changed and prepared in the interval if she was needed.

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Sunday 27 December marked the company’s 199th performance of Eagling’s production since its premiere in 2010 and my first visit to it this season.  It proved to be a mixed bag with some irritating elements which I had noticed creeping in last season now becoming more obvious, such as slapstick, pantomimic acting in the skating scene and in the party scene.  On the plus side, Clara’s friends were slightly older than in previous years, with the beautifully stretched feet that the choreography demands.  The young Clara was danced prettily by Cheryl Heung until she spoiled it at the end with a rather noisy, flat-footed run across the stage before her transformation.  ‘Snowflakes’ has always been my favourite scene of this production but, with a few honourable exceptions, it lacked the style and grace of previous years.  The same happened in “Waltz of the Flowers”, with the cavaliers outclassing the ladies and showing a welcome precision in their ensemble dancing.  As lead cavaliers, two of the company’s finest partners (James Forbat and Max Westwell) showed a level of finesse far beyond that of their ladies.  In the other Act II divertissements, Jung ah Choi shone in the Chinese dance, ably partnered by Makoto Nakamura and Barry Drummond, and Shevelle Dynott brought a panther-like sensuality to the Arabian dance.  Otherwise, for me, it was the lead dancers who provided all the magic at this performance.  Crystal Costa was an enchanting Louise, with her trademark seamless beauty of her dancing, especially in the Mirlitons where she was sympathetically partnered by the genial Drosselmeyer of Daniel Kraus. Anton Lukovkin was an entertaining and agile Mouse King, bringing just the right blend of comedy and menace to the role. New recruit Emilio Pavan as the Nutcracker proved to be an excellent partner and also managed to convey a real sense of chemistry with the adult Clara, despite being encumbered by a mask until his curtain call.  As the adult Clara, Begona Cao was radiant, from the Act I pas de deux with the Nutcracker, through the pas de trois with Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker to the flawless grand pas de deux with Junor Souza, who brought his usual charm and finesse to the role of the Nephew. The delicacy of Cao’s footwork, especially her bourrees travelling backwards, was breath-taking in its beauty, with her feet being so pliant (and in the silent landings from jumps) that it appeared she was not wearing pointe shoes at all.  Her Sugar Plum Fairy solo, beautifully accompanied by Julia Richter on the celeste, was nothing short of perfection with even the little jumps en pointe looking effortless.  As I have recently been watching a film clip of Fonteyn in the grand pas de deux, I can offer Cao no higher accolade than to say her performance reminded me of the grace, musicality and sheer star quality of this prima ballerina assoluta.  The orchestra, as usual, made Tchaikovsky’s score glow and the packed house, with what looked like a lot of little ballet hopefuls amongst the audience, applauded enthusiastically from the end of Act I onwards.

 

Just to reply to the above comments about covers, dancers are allowed to leave at the half (i.e. 35 minutes before the performance starts) if they are not required for the performance (slightly different in opera where covers are paid exclusively to cover one role but very rarely get to go on and are therefore expected to be close by the theatre for most of the performance).  Luckily in a ballet company there is usually someone who can take over at short notice because so many people learn the same role.  It does bring to mind an infamous performance of "Two Pigeons" I attended many years ago when Wendy Ellis slipped and fell very heavily in the first Act and broke both her wrists! My friend, Karen Paisey, was one of the Friends and thought her debut as the Girl the next week might have to be brought forward to that performance but Lesley Collier happened to be in the audience, saw what had happened and rushed backstage and was able to take over from Ellis during the pas de deux which Ellis gallantly had continued to dance so that there was no break in the performance.  As dancers almost always take class even on days when they are not performing, they are at least partially if not fully warmed up.

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Dancers are just so brave they will try to continue if at all possible.

It reminds me of the night I was at the ROH and Monica Mason was dancing Myrthe and broke her ankle mid performance you could literally hear it go!! I cannot remember who came on instead ( deserve a medal of course) but the whole audience knew something not too good had happened!

 

Not going to this Nutcracker this year.....catching up with the Royals instead ....but will go again next year. After a gap it will be interesting to see what I Think of it again!

On another thread have said I am not keen on the mask swapping about .....where the pas de deux becomes a pas de trois as I thought last year it detracts from the music ......definitely pas de deux music with that music but will see if I change my mind or not!!

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The matinee on 4 January was one of ENB’s Child Friendly performances in which children up to the age of 16 can attend for free, including those under 5, so the audience was packed with entire families, including babes-in-arms, enjoying a day out together.  This meant that there was enthusiastic applause after almost every little scene which must have been very heartening for the dancers as they started their last week of double shows almost every day.  Inevitably there was more vocal participation from the audience than usual but it did seem to spur the party scene along and I only found it slightly irritating when it obscured the delicate start of the Sugar Plum Fairy solo.  Conductor Tom Seligman did not compensate at any time with increasing the volume of the orchestra, instead drawing from them a very sensitive and stylish rendering of the score and in particular I noticed some very crisp and exciting drumming in the battle scene.  The party scene was mercifully free of some of the ham acting I had noticed the previous week, with everyone enjoying themselves, particularly the Mother and Father of Tamarin Stott and Grant Rae who were not only gracious hosts but also appeared happily married and doting on all three of their children.  They led the ensemble dances with particular elegance.  The young Clara was danced by Sereina Mowlem, who also performed the role last year and brought to it an added maturity of stage presence.  Shevelle Dynott as the Mouse King was perfect casting for this audience, being naughty rather than scary and throwing off the acrobatic choreography with an almost carefree glee. Due to injury, there were some cast changes not noted on the cast sheet so we had the effervescent Anjuli Hudson replacing Jung ah Choi in both Snowflakes and the Chinese Dance and James Streeter replacing Jinhao Zhang as cavalier for a radiant Alison McWhinney as a Lead Flower who delighted me by doing the supported ‘sliding’ step towards the end of the waltz as choreographed by Eagling but which the other lead couples I have seen this season have not attempted.  Madison Keesler as Louise danced very prettily in the Mirlitons pas de deux partnered by the endearingly dotty Drosselmeyer of Anton Lukovkin making his debut in this role.  I also liked the exuberant Russian Dance performed with an engaging smile by Erik Woolhouse.

 

All three of the principals have danced other roles in the production this season but they have had to wait until the final week to perform together in these roles, as they did at Ksenia Ovsyanick’s debut as Clara last year.  Last year, due to injuries and sudden departures, Max Westwell and Fabian Reimair ended up with the lion’s share of the performances as the Nutcracker or the Nephew but this year will only have their two scheduled performances and they certainly made the most of Monday’s.  Westwell partnered with charm and sensitivity first Mowlem as the young Clara and then Ovsyanick.  Reimair, despite the mask, conveyed a loving tenderness towards Clara and as always was a wonderfully secure partner in the Act I pas de deux and Act II pas de trois, presenting his ballerina to perfection.  Of Ovsyanick, in her first major role since her injury last spring, I can only reiterate what I wrote last year on her debut – with the genuine sweetness that permeates her dancing, she is perfectly cast as Clara.  The lyricism and delicacy of her dancing belies a steely technique so that everything appears effortless, even the most challenging of choreography. The grand pas de deux was quite simply flawless from both Ovsyanick and Westwell at their most regal, eliciting a huge ovation from the audience, as did the whole performance.  This trio is giving the last performance on 10 January, which is also a Child Friendly Performance, and I think it is safe to assume that they will make many more converts amongst the novice ballet-goers whilst delighting the more seasoned audience members.

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Yesterday's matinee was lovely too, a Schools Matinee, and had a happy atmosphere, I enjoyed this production more this year.

 

I booked at the last moment to see Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta whose dancing I had enjoyed in Coppelia, they are a very good partnership, I like Yonah Acosta's mix of strength and softness, Ksenia Ovsyanick was Louise so I saw her dance the Mirlitons, Junor Souza made the Arabian dance look great, virtually a solo now, and  Erik Woolhouse (a new name for me) was brilliant in the Russian Dance, the whole Company looked full of enthusiasm although they must be getting tired.

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I agree that Junor Souza shows the Arabian Dance at its best as he is a very lithe dancer and matches the women in this respect.

 

Personally, I find that having lots of children at The Nutcracker enhances rather than detracts from the performance, despite any increase in noise, because it creates a lively atmosphere in the theatre.

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Aileen, I agree with you about the joy of having children at the Nutcracker and did not mean to imply otherwise.  As I mentioned, it was only slightly irritating when one of them started crying right at the start of the Sugar Plum Fairy solo but otherwise it is lovely to be surrounded by children experiencing the magic for the first time.  It rather gives the lie to the expert on BBC Breakfast this morning who said that a child's attention span is five minutes for every year of its life when a lot of the under-5s sat rapt for the whole performance!

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I didn't read your earlier post that way, Irmgard. There is a risk that a child will make a noise at a crucial point in the performance but that can happen with an adult as well - and adults are generally the ones keeping their phones on, taking photographs and filming. I saw the equivalent performance (with Ksenia and Max) last year (or it may have been the year before) and the most noise was made by two women having a full scale argument in the middle of the performance. It's lovely to see three generations of a family enjoying the performance. We took my mother to several performances of The Nutcracker before, sadly, most of her mind was lost to dementia and a performance at the Coli in 2012 was one of the very last outings she had before she moved into residential care a couple of months later.

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Personally, I find that having lots of children at The Nutcracker enhances rather than detracts from the performance, despite any increase in noise, because it creates a lively atmosphere in the theatre.

 

Totally agree! I'm not generally a fan of being surrounded by young children at a theatrical performance, but this is an exception. When the RB run it over Christmas I always like to try and make sure I get to at least one matinee on a Saturday or during the school holidays.  Though the queues for the Ladies tend to be horrendous as a result...

 

During the last RB run, I was standing at one such matinee behind a family - an aunt and adult niece, I think, with two very little girls who were really a bit *too* young for a full-length, and indeed the younger one (who must have been 3 at the most) was getting restless and quite noisy, and as a result the family decided to leave at half-time.  There was a woman sitting a few seats along from them, though, who tutted and stared at them throughout, as if every noise or movement was a personal affront to her.  Had it been a grown-up ballet (though I'm not sure who'd take a 3-year-old to, say, Mayerling) I would have understood and shared her frustration.  But seriously, who books a Nutcracker matinee in the middle of Christmas week if they hate children that much? :rolleyes:

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I was very happy to be part of the child friendly audience at the Coli last Monday afternoon.

 

I hope that, one day, some of those children will, as adults, be telling their own children that, when they went to the Nutcracker, they were very lucky to see the wonderful Ksenia Ovsyanick dancing.

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I was taken to the ballet as a primary school pupil, still remember that school visit vividly.   Will admit some undisciplined kids can be a pain, but I still prefer them in theatres than on planes.

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