The Nutcracker: Behind-the-scenes Events

The Nutcracker audience members enjoyed a pre-performance insight event on Friday evening. Taking place in the London Coliseum theatre auditorium, the stage formed a fascinating backdrop with stagehands sweeping, dancers rehearsing and even a casually dressed Tamara Rojo walking across.

English National Ballet. "The Nutcracker".

Photography by Patrick Baldwin

 

English National Ballet was the first UK-based company to perform The Nutcracker in its entirety. The Company has put on a production of the ballet every year since 1950 and is now on its tenth production. The current one, with choreography by Wayne Eagling, is set during the Edwardian era but makes the traditional story more relevant to modern audiences with a coming-of-age plot for Clara. Taking place on Christmas Eve, a young Clara enjoys a festive party with family and friends and is given a nutcracker doll. Then, in the night, she dreams of herself as an adult and journeys to the Land of Snow to enjoy exotic dances and become the Sugar Plum Fairy.

First Artist, Kerry Birkett described performing the corps de ballet roles in The Nutcracker. The Snowflakes are “uncomfortable to do but beautiful to watch” as choreography involves a lot of spinning and snow is falling on-stage. For dancers, the Christmas season is extremely tough; “it’s six weeks of living and breathing ballet, with ice buckets at the ready each night”.

Lead violin in English National Ballet’s orchestra, Matthew Scrivener, spoke about Tchaikovsky’s score. Although it was created towards the end of the composer’s life, when he was very unhappy, this isn’t reflected in the delight and joyousness of the music; “it’s so well-written, we don’t get bored of playing it.”

English National Ballet. "The Nutcracker".

Photography by Patrick Baldwin

On Sunday, families were treated to an on-stage workshop with behind-the-scenes activities. Participants imagined decorating the huge Nutcracker Christmas tree as well as dancing some of the party guest choreography from the ballet. They then had the opportunity to see some of Peter Farmer’s sparkling costumes, many of which are covered in Swarovski crystals. Farmer wanted dancers at all levels of the Company to feel like principal’s, so each outfit is exquisitely detailed. Wig Supervisor, Amelia Carrington, also explained the process of creating Edwardian hairstyles for the production. Because each performer plays multiple roles, they use wigs to create the traditional style. Each wig is made from real hair and takes two weeks of full-time work by a wig maker to complete.

The family workshop was completed with the opportunity to observe English National Ballet company members in class on the Coliseum stage. Ballet Mistress, Hua Fang Zhang, guided dancers rapidly through intricate barre exercises, offering corrections to even some of the most experienced dancers. Tamara Rojo was also there working hard and demonstrating her impressive ability to maintain immaculate ballet technique alongside performing directorial responsibilities.

Laura Dodge