Nutcracker finds a fine fit with Bal­let BC

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

Aby Janet Smith

t first glance, the snow­pow­dered, tutu-clad world of the Royal Win­nipeg Bal­let’s Nutcracker would seem to be a uni­verse away from the sleek, con­tem­po­rary style of Bal­let BC’S usual fare.

But the Van­cou­ver com­pany’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Emily Mol­nar, re­minds us that pre­sent­ing The Nutcracker has been a main­stay in the Bal­let BC sea­son not only for her en­tire 10-year reign, but for well over a decade be­fore that.

And for good rea­sons.

One is sim­ply, as Mol­nar agrees, to pro­vide a glit­ter­ing hol­i­day tra­di­tion for lo­cal fam­i­lies, per­formed by one of the top bal­let com­pa­nies in the coun­try. In a unique twist, the RWB’S ren­di­tion puts a clas­sic Cana­dian spin on the tra­di­tional story: look for Moun­ties, po­lar bears, the Par­lia­ment Build­ings, and pond hockey.

Aside from that, the clas­si­cal­bal­let mas­ter­piece sim­ply helps make the lo­cal troupe’s cut­ting-edge con­tem­po­rary cre­ation pos­si­ble. “Fi­nan­cially, there’s the im­por­tance of build­ing au­di­ences and young au­di­ences,” Mol­nar be­gins, speak­ing to

The Royal Win­nipeg Bal­let’s Nutcracker boasts clas­si­cal chops and tu­tus ga­lore.

the Straight be­tween re­hearsals at her own com­pany head­quar­ters. “And it is a foun­da­tion for a com­pany’s abil­ity to take risks in other ar­eas. For all of us big bal­let com­pa­nies in the coun­try, 50 per­cent of our rev­enue comes from ticket sales, so we are re­ally de­pen­dent on ticket sales. So The Nutcracker helps us cre­ate new work. For us not to be able to do it would be ex­tremely detri­men­tal.”

Has Bal­let BC con­sid­ered mount­ing its own, con­tem­po­rary Nutcracker? Af­ter all, last sea­son it staged a new Romeo and Juliet—a sleek new twist on an old story bal­let—to wide­spread ap­plause.

“We’ve thought about that and yes, we could do that. But is it re­ally what peo­ple want from a Nutcracker?”

Mol­nar says. “If we were go­ing to do it, it would mean we couldn’t do what we are do­ing next.”

Mol­nar is re­fer­ring to the fact that Bal­let BC hits Madrid De­cem­ber 13 and 14, Lux­em­bourg De­cem­ber 17, and Darm­stadt, Ger­many, on De­cem­ber 19. Af­ter a brief break the com­pany heads to Bal­let BC would have to cut about a third of that if it were to try to mount a hol­i­day show.

Pre­sent­ing the RWB Nutcracker has other big ben­e­fits as well. The pro­duc­tion in­vites more than 80 young dance stu­dents from schools across the Lower Main­land to ap­pear on-stage for the show.

On a deeper level, The Nutcracker of­fers dance fans a vivid les­son in the same kind of vir­tu­os­ity that Bal­let BC of­fers up in its pro­gram­ming. “There’s a ref­er­ence point; when peo­ple can see more tra­di­tional clas­si­cal bal­let, they can con­nect that to the clas­si­cal in our work,” says Mol­nar, whose dancers of­ten build move­ment us­ing the same rig­or­ous tech­nique and train­ing that clas­si­cal artists do.

That’s right: de­spite ap­pear­ances, maybe the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Mouse King aren’t so very far re­moved from the bold, ab­stract work of Bal­let BC af­ter all.

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