In 1995, back when the youth of Toronto were dressed in flannel shirts and grooving to "alternative" music, choreographer James Kudelka enchanted with his version of the beloved Tchaikovsky classic. Even the cool kids had to admit it was all right.
Alexandra MacDonald, Andreas Kaas and Félix Paquet with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Aleksandar Antonijevic (provided by The National Ballet of Canada).
Most of those cool kids have grown up and found better words to describe this holiday classic beloved by young and old. Now 495 shows in, The Nutcracker by The National Ballet of Canada is suitable for ballet connoisseurs as well as everyday people who don't know their grand jetes from their plies.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the classic production in Toronto. And traveling to the glittering winter realm of the Snow Queen is one of the best ways to take that holiday chip off your shoulder and find common ground with the magic and spirit of the season.
Svetlana Lunkina and Evan McKie in The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Bruce Zinger (provided by The National Ballet of Canada).
In case you need some brushing up, The Nutcracker is set in Imperial Russia. An unpredictable uncle, Nikolai, forgets to bring a special gift for his niece Marie. Thinking on the fly, he gives her a Nutcracker in the shape of a soldier that was intended for her parents. After Marie falls asleep, the Nutcracker comes to life. The elaborate story gets shaped through dance rather than words, led by the beautiful melodies of Tchaikovsky.
The score is immediately recognizable from the first notes. It has been the soundtrack to countless holiday classics and cartoons, including The Simpsons and Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. The familiar element allows for a cultural event that blends as seamlessly as possible with a family experience. Child dancers impress with detailed choreography, adding whimsy to the rich affair.
Svetlana Lunkina in The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Bruce Zinger (provided by The National Ballet of Canada).
Running from December 12 to January 3 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, The Nutcracker is entertainment with the potential to extend holiday joy. After all, any part of the holidays that doesn't involve running around and exhausting every available resource is precious and must be cherished.
This version of The Nutcracker is like an elaborately wrapped present that doesn't disappoint when opened. With 19 layers of tulle in the Sugar Plum Fairy's tutu and 233 performers on stage, the numbers point to unbeatable entertainment. It snows over ballerinas iced with crystal costumes. Bears ice-skate on a stage decorated with elaborate set designs. It's a ballet taking placing in a dream – and it sure feels like one.
Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Bruce Zinger (provided by The National Ballet of Canada)
We can certainly spend our December bogged down with to-do lists that barely fit into Google's Cloud. Or we can set aside time to watch a Sugar Plum Fairy emerge from a huge Fabergé egg.
It isn't too late for magic.