If you are one of the many people in the Southern Hemisphere who dream of a white Christmas, The Nutcracker on Ice is for you. Even if that white Christmas is during a Cape Town heat wave in January.
This Tchaikovsky ballet has become synonymous with Christmas, not least because of its story. It is an adaptation of the EH Hoffman story of a little girl who is given a rather strange Christmas gift of a wooden nutcracker in the shape of a little man. The little girl falls asleep cradling the nutcracker and enters a dream world where the Nutcracker comes to life. The two are involved in a battle between the Rat King and the toy soldiers, an epic journey to The Kingdom of Sweets and a wonderful celebration of dancing hostedby the Sugar Plum Fairy.
There are many different adaptations with different names and even alternate endings of the Nutcracker story but it is best to read up on the basic plot beforehand.
Following hot on the heels of the massively successful Phantom of the Opera, Pieter Toerien has brought the Russian Imperial Ice Stars back to the Artscape. Adding the suffix “on Ice” to any production makes it seem more impressive, much like having Ryan Gosling on a movie poster. While the ice skates themselves are rather clodhopping in comparison to a ballet slipper, the extra speed and apparent agility they lend is breathtaking. The transformation of the Artscape stage into a 16m square ice rink is in itself impressive, but the dancers gliding, lifting and pirouetting upon it are quite spectacular.
I’m more of a rock fan myself, but I enjoyed the music, and inevitably recognised large chunks of it as so often happens with the classics.
The only slight disappointment for me was the Sugar Plum Fairy dance with the little girl in Act Two. Compared to the stunning performances in the ‘Grand Celebration of Dancing’ the choreography was rather bland and fell short of the grandeur of the accompanying Tchaikovsky music.
Overall though, the Nutcracker is far more than just a ballet on ice. There is real magic and fire dancers and aerobatics and the sort of astounding feats seen at Madame Zingara, but all the more impressive because they are on ice. I was bedazzled. When someone is dangling a few meters above the ground one can’t help but be in awe. And when this is done above a hard ice rink with a sharp blade dangerously close to their face… need I say more? Just this – go and see it for yourself.
By Jana van Heerden
The Russian Imperial Ice Stars company performs The Nutcracker On Ice at the Artscape from 19 January 2011 to 12 February 2012.