The first time I saw The Nutcracker it was in a small theatre close to my home town in Wales. It was the first actual ballet I had ever seen and I was ready to be thrilled, enthralled and captivated by its magic and beauty.
Unfortunately, the stage was just a bit too small for this particular production and all I can remember is an occasional wince as yet another dancer bumped into the scenery. I forgot to be captivated and simply felt anxious every time a member of the cast pirouetted towards the side of the stage.
But at least this production was taking ballet out to people like me who in those days – for it was a long, long time ago in a place far, far away – would regard a visit to see The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House as about as accessible as a weekend in Buckingham Palace. (like I say, long time ago, far away etc…yes, times change..)
As I left the theatre I vowed that the next time I saw The Nutcracker, it would be on a magnificent stage, vast and beautiful, with scenery like gossamer, absolutely impossible to bump in to.
And I sort of got my wish last night..sort of…
Between then and now I have managed to see a couple more ballets – Swan Lake in Cardiff and Manon at the Coliseum in London – but The Nutcracker sort of slipped down the list, and then fell off it. I have very little knowledge of ballet, and have done almost nothing about finding out more, so I regard myself as an ignoramous, but an enthusiastic one.
Then an opportunity presented itself: The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House beamed LIVE into a cinema near me as part of their cinema season.
Obviously, it’s not being there, but is nearly like being there, and as it was on a cinema screen, the dancers could not bump into the scenery…they would simply disappear quietly out of shot. One less thing to worry about for me, anyway.
So, there we were at the pictures in Thurrock watching The Nutcracker, as if we were in the audience in the auditorium, but we were in another auditorium, but it felt like we were there. Which we were, as it was live. Do you see..
And because it was on a cinema screen, the dancers were cinema screen size, so we got a cinematic view of a theatre production, where the participants were very big indeed.
And it was stunning. Beautiful, captivating, opulent – all the things I wanted the first time – magical, and entrancing, with music you knew but didn’t know you did, and a never ending Christmas Tree that grew out of the stage. I want one of those.
Because we were watching it on a cinema screen, the camera would sometimes focus on a particular dancer, and we were able to see close up how gracefully and athletically they move; how they hold lines and shapes as if they were in a painting. I wanted to leap around with them, and spin and pirouetted: they made it look so effortless. The hours and hours of work and discipline that go into that craft I can only marvel at.
Then it ended and the nutcracker was released from his spell and became a real person again. We were released from the ballet’s spell, too, only our real life was trying to find the car in a multi-storey in Lakeside. But we wafted gracefully and happily as we did, so the magic not quite gone.
What to see next? Opera or another ballet?