|Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. Photo Bill Cooper|
Feature: Five Christmas Dance Shows
Date: 3 November 2009
With its seasonal setting and themes of transformation and renewal, The Nutcracker is the ballet to see at Christmas. Since it was created in Russia in 1892 to Tchaikovsky’s famous music, there have been umpteen versions around the world, some good, some not, but the best have huge appeal, with snowflakes, fairies, and a growing Christmas tree that magics the heroine away into a fantasy land of dancing sweets.
Peter Wright’s production for The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the best in the world, and both perform it this Christmas. Between them, the two companies dance it 40 times, and you should book now. At only two hours, it is a great introduction to ballet for small children and also a moving story for adults which reminds them of their own childhood, real or longed for.
However, The Nutcracker isn’t the only Christmas dance show. This year’s offerings are not as varied as past Christmases, and there’s nothing new, but there is still plenty to temp both tradition lovers and those who prefer larkier entertainment.
English National Ballet, The Snow Queen, London Coliseum
The classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale gets regal treatment in ENB’s new-ish production. Especially good are the sets and costumes which almost make believe you have jointed the dancers in their fairytale kingdom.
ZooNation, Into the Hoods, Southbank
A different sort of fairy tale is told in ZooNation’s Into The Hoods. Instead of a Princess and her castle kingdom, hip-hop choreographer Kate Prince has created a group of kids from Ruff Endz estate who conjur their own magic world from the urban waste around them. With a few tweaks this could become a modern Christmas classic.
The Royal Ballet, Les Patineurs & Tales of Beatrix Potter, Royal Opera House
This double bill of short ballets has huge appeal for children. The first, Les Patineurs, sees the dancers as skaters, gliding around an imaginary frozen lake with fur-trimmed hats and gloves. It’s paired with The Tales of Beatrix Potter which re-tells some of the author’s favourite stories of woodland creatures.
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Sadler's Wells
Matthew Bourne shot to world fame in 1995 with his all-male swan version of Swan Lake. It’s an ingenious, revealing re-working of the Tchaikovsky classic, and has already taken its place in ballet’s history books. Its portrayal of a dysfunctional royal family may not be the sweetest Christmas treat, but it has sufficient larks to provide seasonal cheer.
The Royal Ballet (26 Nov-1 Jan)/Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Nutcracker, Opera House/Birmingham Hippodrome
The Christmas ballet gold standard. The dancing snowflakes in Act 1, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act II are unmissable seasonal treats.
- by Sarah Frater
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