Goh Ballet

The Nutcracker

Dates and Venue 19 – 22 December 2012, 7:30pm (+ matinees on December 22 & 23 at 2pm) | The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Executive Producer Chan Hon Goh Choreography Anna-Marie Holmes Performers Guest principal dancers - Jose Manuel Carreño and Tiler Peck, Members of the Goh Ballet Academy, Vancouver Opera Orchestra conducted by Leslie Dala Music Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Reviewer John Jane

The Nutcracker, which just recently passed its 120 year milestone, is a charming seasonal ballet with stirring dance interpretations of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's legendary score. For most people who have only seen one ballet performed live, that one is likely to be The Nutcracker.

Canadian choreographer Anna-Marie Holmes’s Nutcracker is warmly traditional, yet refreshingly current and -- aside from Drosselmeyer’s bag of magic tricks -- there were no real surprises. Much of the charm of this ballet is in the willingness of the choreographer to allow it to be as bright as the well-decorated Christmas tree at centre stage and dancers who communicate the story with verve and panache.

During the playing of the Nutcracker Overture the curtain raises to reveal a chilly Christmas Eve street scene, with a lamplighter, a delivery boy and a Chestnut vendor going about their business. Next, we follow guests arriving at the Stahlbaum Weihnachten party. On this night, the guest list includes local celebrities Fred Lee and Dawn Chubai.

The eventual arrival of the eccentric Drosselmeyer signals one of the most spellbinding parts of the show. This 2012 production welcomes the return of the charismatic Damien Carriere in the role of the enigmatic toymaker. The horseplay by the mischievous Fritz (Matthew Ma) is great fun to watch, as are the antics of the Ballerina Doll (Cierra Munro), Harlequin (Theo Duff-Grant) and the Dancing Bear (Gabriel Oliveira).

As the young Clara, Natalie Thornley Hall offers as natural a portrayal as one might ever see. She delivers a performance that is mature beyond her years, while at the same time capturing the naïveté of a 12-year-old child who still cherishes the kinship of dolls. Yoshiko Kamikusa, a product of the Goh Ballet Academy, turns in an exquisite performance as the Snow Queen with Dance of the Snowflakes. She is surely one to watch for as a future principal dancer.

As the story progresses, Clara continues her journey with the Nutcracker Prince and they are both taken to the Kingdom of Sweets. In celebration of triumph over the Mouse King, there are a number of dances performed in their honour: a Spanish dance representing chocolate, an Arabian dance representing coffee, a Chinese dance representing -- what else – tea. Arguably the most charming sequence was that of the Bon Bons, a group of ten junior members of the academy, who appear from inside the giant crinoline of Mere Gigogne (Christopher Hunte) to perform a spectacular gymnastic routine.

Guest principal dancers Tiler Peck as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Jose Manuel Carreño as her Cavalier, moved with fluid grace, handling their respective vocabulary with the superb technique that one would expect of such seasoned professionals.

The Vancouver Opera Orchestra under the direction of conductor Leslie Dala hold nothing back to deliver a rousing, satisfying work.

© 2012 John Jane