As the lights dimmed in the auditorium there was a tangible shiver of anticipation at the opening night of The Nutcracker at Leeds Grand Theatre.
Beautiful Clara drew us straight into the story as her family prepared for their Christmas banquet. The characterisation from all dancers in the opening sequence was excellent, injecting humour and promising excitement for what was to come.
As the interior wall flew out we were treated to a spectacle of swirling dancers, exquisitely attired and coiffured. It is worth mentioning that the children, who were all students on the NBT Associate Programme, blended in superbly, dancing with confidence and obvious enjoyment.
As the tale progressed we were lured into the magical world of The Nutcracker doll, toy soldiers and over-sized mice coming to life and battling for supremacy. Clara was then whisked away by The Nutcracker to a fantasy land where ice maidens, softly falling snow and a ride on a fairytale sleigh ended Act One.
Act Two transported us out of this world and back to a place where Clara and The Nutcracker were entertained in royal style by dancers from all over the world. The Spanish dancers and Arabian princesses thrilled the audience and the athleticism of the Russian cossacks was breathtaking!
They were followed a graceful pas de deux between Clara’s “look alike” sister as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier prince.
As we were whisked back to reality and Clara awoke in her father’s arms, there was an audible gasp as he appeared to materialise from nowhere!
We were led to believe that all the night’s events had merely been a figment of Clara’s imagination until, as she held her Nutcracker doll to her heart, her Uncle and her Prince fleetingly appeared in the doorway behind her.
Special mention should be given to Rachel Gillespie as Clara and Ashley Dixon as The Nutcracker, who forged a mesmerising partnership. Their lifting was effortless, their dancing technically faultless and a joy to watch.
Northern Ballet Theatre as a whole never fail to impress with their storytelling and their ability to draw their audience into a different time and place. How privileged we are to have such high quality dance right here on our doorstep in the North of England!
The audience, ranging from the youngest of schoolchildren to the oldest of octogenarian youth, wholeheartedly enjoyed the performance and, for many, Christmas had officially begun!
It was also lovely to discover that the NBT Christmas 2015 charity is Martin House Children’s Hospice, a fitting and most worthwhile cause.
Without a doubt this is a “must see” production for fans of ballet and storytelling, or those just wanting a wonderful night out. For those who may not yet be acquainted with Northern Ballet Theatre… this is your perfect opportunity!
The Nutcracker runs at Leeds Grand Theatre until 2nd January 2016.