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DANCE REVIEW

Get into the festive season with Cape Town City Ballet’s performance of ‘The Nutcracker’

Get into the festive season with Cape Town City Ballet’s performance of ‘The Nutcracker’
Mikayla Isaacs and Quinton Jacobs in The Nutcracker. Photography: Helena Fagan

The Cape Town City Ballet fills audiences with delight and wonder in celebration of the festive season and the 130th anniversary of Lev Ivanov’s original production of The Nutcracker.

The magical Christmas narrative of the Nutcracker Prince, Clara, her brother Fritz, and the Mouse King has been passed down through generations in many ways: whereas some versions are “psychologically complex” and follow the “dark story” by ETA Hoffman, ballet doyenne Veronica Paeper explains in the show’s programme that she aimed to bring a production “full of fantasy and delight” to the Artscape Theatre Centre’s stage.

“The Nutcracker Ballet is about children and for children and I hope, together with Peter Cazalet’s wonderful set and costumes, that we have created a magical ballet … and that we have done Tchaikovsky’s glorious music justice,” Paeper writes.

More than 300 children attended castings nationwide, with 120 chosen to dance alongside the company. Each performance allows 40 children to showcase their budding talent.

“We were inspired by the level of talent and infectious enthusiasm of the children that auditioned,” says Debbie Turner, CEO of Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB). “It was wonderful to take the search nationwide and provide the opportunity for young dancers from across the country to perform on the Artscape stage.”

The show is divided into two acts, each an hour long with a 30-minute interval in between.

As the stage curtains open, the audience is welcomed into the home of the Stahlbraum family, where Mr and Mrs Stahlbraum, their children Clara and Fritz, and Granny and Grandpa decorate the Christmas tree in preparation for the family’s Christmas party.

The first wave of laughter from the crowd erupts as the characters become particular about the decorations, signalling a possible spark of recognition about light-hearted family feuds during the festive season.

The celebration commences as guests arrive and the evening is sprinkled with dance, games and gifts. Soon, the joyous atmosphere shifts to one of mystery as the Stahlbraum children’s uncle and Clara’s godfather, Drosselmeyer, arrives and hands Clara a nutcracker doll.

After the guests leave and the house is cloaked with the quiet of the night, Clara sneaks downstairs, and, at the stroke of midnight, magical things begin to happen. From being chased by an army of mice and their Mouse King to an extraordinary journey of encounters with toy soldiers, Snow Queen, Snowflakes, Icicles and Snowdrops, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince travel through enchanted worlds.

Cape Town City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Image: Supplied/Helena Fagan

Kirstel Paterson and Leusson Muniz in Cape Town City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Image: Helena Fagan

In Act 2, the travellers arrive at the Land of Treats and the audience’s eyes are enthralled by the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy’s pas de deux and a twirling pirouette that seems to draw the ballerina towards the ceiling.

Designers Cazelet, set and costume consultant Michael Mitchell and designer Wilhelm Disbergen have beautifully decorated the performances of Paeper’s adaption of Pamela Chimes and David Poole’s The Nutcracker. The lighting captivates the shifts in moods: from warm yellows at the joyful Christmas party and the Land of Treats, to cold blues in the snowy landscape, and shades of turquoise to match Drosselmeyer’s costume and magical flair. The show’s other characters’ costumes stand out, too: Snow Queen’s icy blue outfit with feathery accents amplifies the delicacy and wonder of her performance, while the Sugar Plum Fairy’s costume uncannily resembles candyfloss in shades of pink.

“The final performance on Friday, 23 December, is going to be particularly special, when old and young kids alike can enjoy the Children’s Parade after the show, take pictures with the characters on stage and receive a sweet treat. The perfect send-off into the festive season!” says Turner.

Tickets are selling fast, with the afternoon shows on 17 December and 23 December already being sold out and only single-seat bookings remaining for 18 December. Prices range from R175 to R495 and guests are encouraged to pre-order drinks for intermission at the bar. Bookings can be made on ComputicketDM/ML

Fit for the whole family, and children above four years old, the Cape Town City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker runs from 7 December until 23 December. Accompaniment is by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Brandon Phillips.

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