Culture & Conversation

The posts of Christmas Past: No. 2


In Nutcracker Dazzles, first published Dec 29th 2012, Sarah Fletcher reviewed the long-running production that is currently playing at Place des Arts.

I found myself at a Nutcracker matinee with a gaggle of tiny princesses milling about Place des Arts. One in a baby blue dress pirouetted into my left knee and spilled noiselessly to the ground, but she just as quickly twirled away. No princess worth her salt lets a 6 ft tall dance critic stand in her way. I found my seating with my date, an erstwhile Nutcracker Mouse gone corporate, as hamster-size coughs emanated high and low across Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. It must be flu season.

The set of this year’s Nutcracker, the longest-running show in Canada, is traditionally designed for spectacle. Witness the overwhelming Christmas tree in the back that keeps on growing and growing. A cast of 165 dancers, many of them all of four feet tall, pranced about the stage through the course of the show. It was a beautiful opening though the first act felt a bit too crowded. I find it unfortunate to watch dancers in full period dress that – though they are as beautiful and colourful as Christmas candy canes – conceal the intricacy of their movements. The point is the dance, is it not? It’s an orgy of brilliant colours but I’d rather witness the movements up close.

The Nutcracker in all his robotic dance glory was strong and young Clara was lovely opposite. But it was only following intermission that the show really got interesting, when Clara’s foray in the Kingdom of the Sweets set the stage for something a bit more magical. The Arabian dance sees the only really interesting play with lighting, intense blue costumes set ablaze with sudden illumination. The Russian’s jumps were so high he got lost up in the awnings a few times and I must say my heart followed. The Sugar Plum Fairy garnered the greatest applause. One lives for such displays of virtuosity.

The sets are a bit overblown for my taste and occasionally take away from the dancing. Why not dim the lighting and focus in on the dancers themselves? It’s a Broadway-esque obsession with grandeur, particularly in the spirit of Christmas consumerism; but when the sets distract the eyes from the dance, I just can’t quite get on board.

Hamster-size princesses of all ages will adore it.

Place des Arts, through December 30. 

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