The Nutcracker

Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
International Classic Ballet Theatre
Sheffield Lyceum

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Arisai Hashimoto and Assylbek Ismail in The Nutcracker Credit: Anna Barclay
Corps de Ballet in ICBT The Nutcracker Credit: Anna Barclay
Cast of ICBT The Nutcracker Credit: Anna Barclay

The International Classic Ballet Theatre (ICBT) is currently engaged in a UK tour which includes a charming performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Artistic Director Marina Medvetskaya.

Principal roles are performed by dancers of various nationalities, from Japan, Kazakhstan, the UK and elsewhere, while the substantial corps de ballet is drawn from the ICBT United States.

The first act takes place at a big Christmas party at Clara's house where all the children receive a present and Clara the special gift of a Nutcracker doll. We meet Clara and her young friends, her wealthy, dignified parents, her beloved godfather Drosselmeier and a host of elegant and beautifully dressed adult guests. The colours of the costumes are stunning and provide exciting visual contrasts.

The direction is extremely helpful in introducing this large assembly as individuals, pairs or in small groups so the audience has time to read individualised characterisation and enjoy the comic business included in the children's party games.

Clara falls asleep, dreams of her Nutcracker Prince but also of a gang of terrifying rats who steal the presents and transform the Christmas tree.

This is a traditional production, so the set is framed with drawn and painted backdrops of cityscapes and snow scenes and the tree itself is painted on canvas but manages to grow to a great height as we watch.

Arisai Hashimoto is an entrancing Clara throughout, seemly effortless in strenuous movement, as light as a feather when lifted and continually smiling and making eye contact with the audience as she dances. She is also a perfect Sugar Plum Fairy in the second half.

She has more than adequate support from Assylbek Ismail as the Nutcracker Prince and from the team of male dancers who enable the complex lifts and contribute to choreographed sequences.

The second half contains the familiar and popular sequence of dances from 'distant lands'. It is at this point that the ballet begins to show its age. We are as an audience used to foreign travel and have often had the advantage of seeing Spanish dance performed effectively to traditional Spanish music.

Meanwhile, ethnomusicologists have for some time been studying and recording dances of the Middle and Far East accompanied by the traditional instruments of those regions. I expect this will be of little consequence to ballet enthusiasts who love and prefer Tchaikovsky's score.

Zhanna Tevosyan is lithe and sensuous in the Eastern Dance, the Spanish dance is energetically performed and Ryoka Yamamoto and Gui Suehiro emphasise the comedy in the Chinese dance. The dance that has real musical integrity is the Russian dance, confidently performed by Alexis Cooper and Jake Walker.

The corps de ballet add extended sequences in the Winter scene and in the concluding action.

The Nutcracker continues to be a Christmas favourite, and I'm sure there will be much in this production to delight a new generation of ballet lovers.

Reviewer: Velda Harris

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