For those with visions of sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads, the time has come for The Nutcracker to return to the Vernon stage.
With audiences about to be treated to the professional production of Tchaikovsky’s masterwork, with a twist, locals can once again relive the magic of Clara and her beloved Nutcracker visiting the Land of Sweets.
A feast for the eyes and ears, it’s been a few years since the ballet was performed on the local stage.
For years, the Canadian School of Ballet in Kelowna, with assistance from local students at the Okanagan School of Ballet, staged the famed ballet at the Vernon Recreation Centre auditorium and later at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
“In the early days, local dancers performed to the live accompaniment of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra,” said Vernon’s Carole Ruth, who then played first violin with the OSO. “The percussionist set up side stage with a television monitor to see the conductor because there wasn’t room in the orchestra pit.”
Ballet Kelowna, the Okanagan’s only professional ballet dance company, then led by artistic director David LaHay, joined the production and it enjoyed a successful run in both Kelowna and Vernon for a number of years.
However, when Ballet Kelowna underwent a financial crisis in 2013, the ballet was not produced in Vernon and although the company came back to life in 2014 with a new artistic director (Simone Orlando) and a performance in Kelowna, The Nutcracker has not returned to the North Okanagan, until now.
The Performing Arts Centre society has filled the gap with Ballet Victoria bringing its own interpretation of the beloved Christmas tale as part of its 2015-16 dance series. Led by artistic director Paul Destrooper, Ballet Victoria has already staged two successful ballets in Vernon (Cinderella and Dracula), and this one is already proving to be popular with two close-to sold-out shows at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, Saturday, Dec. 19.
“The Nutcracker delivers everything you expect from a Ballet Victoria performance: beautifully executed dance, brilliant costumes, complex choreography and a bit of humour,” said Erin Kennedy, artistic director at the Performing Arts Centre. “(They are) known for their dramatic, inspiring, and physical style. (The company) embodies the ability to combine the stunning classical lines of pointe work with the grounded side of neoclassical ballet and modern contemporary dance forms.”
Almost 125 years after Tchaikovsky’s famous musical score was first featured, Destrooper takes the whirling winter wonderland to new heights with his grand pas de deux and other fun character pieces.
“Our story starts with a traditional family Christmas Eve party where a gift from an uncle unleashes a whirlwind of unexpected vignettes and surprises,” said Destrooper.
Tchaikovsky’s score still sets the perfect backdrop for all the traditional dances and characters from the Sugar Plum Fairy to the Waltz of the Snowflakes, and Dewdrop and her Cavalier. However, Ballet Victoria blends 21st century styles with a host of vibrant new characters including, of all things, Minions and Frozen’s Elsa and Olaf to join the fun and mesmerize audience members of all ages.
“We’ve changed things up and had a bit of fun bringing the well-loved tale of The Nutcracker into this century. We poke a bit of fun with humorous surprises that will excite the whole family,” said Destrooper. “The Nutcracker has a little bit of everything for everyone. (There’s) fun new sections like a candy cane hockey game to the well-loved traditional variations of the Dewdrop and the Dance of the Flowers.”
Ballet Victoria’s The Nutcracker stages Dec. 19 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39 for adults, $36 for seniors and $34 for students. Very limited tickets were available as of press time. Call the Ticket Seller box office at 250-549-7469 for availability.