The Nutcracker, with its sense of childhood wonderment, magic at midnight and corps of shimmering snowflakes, is the Christmas staple of the ballet world. Wayne Eagling’s 2010 revival for English National Ballet, now firmly cemented into the company’s winter season at London Coliseum, is no exception.
The opening, with its playful skaters and traditional party scene, is the epitome of a Victorian Christmas. Drosselmeyer works his magic with a spattering of tricks, gifts are handed out and the corps’ sideline frolics keep the long-winded party scene of Act I light and entertaining. The young dancers are particularly enthusiastic and impeccably drilled. Nicolas Pereira Da Silva revels in his character young Freddie’s mischievous antics while Sophie Carter’s young Clara is neat and expressive.
It requires only a small leap of imagination to transition from Clara as a child to the wide-eyed wonderment of Rina Kanehara. Her irrepressibly joyful interpretation has a convincingly sweet, childlike quality and her endearing presence uplifts the battle between the rats and toy soldiers. In ENB’s Nutcracker, Clara and Drosselmeyer’s Nephew (Jeffrey Cirio) dance Act II’s pas de deux and, while the occasional lift teeters on the edge of security, together they exude an effervescent energy. Fernando Carratala Coloma also makes a strong Nutcracker and Alison McWhinney is a delightfully elegant Louise/Mirliton.
Despite its annual roll-out, this Nutcracker feels fresh and lively, and the company dance with an assurance suited to such a familiar friend. The choreography could better enrich the sparkling possibilities of Tchaikovsky’s score, but with its touches of humour, theatrical enchantment, and flurries of soft falling snow, ENB’s version remains a Nutcracker worth seeing.