The current season of seven ballets from Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet company filmed in 2014 is being screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau theatres in the big cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. From Saturday 17 December 2016 to 22 December 2016 there are limited screenings of the much loved Christmas ballet The Nutcracker.
My ballet friend and I went to see it on Saturday 17 December 2016. First, the original Russian ballet story is marginally different to the one we know. The heroine is Marie and she is the star of her own dreams (Clara dreaming about her sister being the princess just doesn’t make sense – no one does that). The choreography was done in 1966 by Yuri Grigorovich after the style of Petipa to the music of Tchaikovsky. He uses young adults in the role of children, specifically so that the choreography didn’t have to be simplified. The whole thing is perfectly marvellous.
The Nutcracker stars Anna Nikulina as Marie, with Denis Rodkin as her Nutcracker Prince. Andrei Merkuriev dances the role of Drosselmeyer with Vitaly Biktimirov as the Mouse King, accompanied by the Bolshoi Corps de Ballet.
It was a remark by the commentator that the ballet was transformational that set me off thinking about the transformational aspects of The Nutcracker specifically and of Christmas generally. The whole premise of the E.T.A Hoffmann fairy tail is that the present given to Marie by her uncle Drosselmeyer (a nutcracker painted like a soldier) transforms into a prince. She transforms into a princess. The various characters are everyday things that transform into dancing couples. I found it enchanting that I can find something so new in the overly familiar ballet.
Christmas itself is a time of transformation. People give charitable donations and often give very generously of their time. Families open their homes to those they know will be alone. People volunteer at centres for the aged, the infirm, the homeless. Children in institutionalised care just need to state what they want and “Santa” will deliver it. It really is a time of great blessing.
However, just as Marie awakes to find it was all a dream, so too does the love and benevolence of Christmas dry up all too soon. 😦
Don’t let my cynicism put you off a charming ballet.
The other productions in this season include: Swan Lake (18 February 2017), The Sleeping Beauty (10 March), A Contemporary Evening (21 April) and finally, A Hero of our Time (12 May). The ballets are brought to the big screen by Fathom Events, BY Experience and Pathé Live.
One more ballet movie plug before I go – the animated feature Ballerina, (I have NOT previewed this) which dances its way onto Ster-Kinekor screens (in 2D and 3D) from 06 January 2017. Set in 1879 Paris, an orphan girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and flees her rural Brittany for Paris, where she passes for someone else and accedes to the position of pupil at the Grand Opera house. The film has a running time of 90mins and carries a PG classification.