There’s More Than One Way To Crack A Nut

The West Australian Ballet brings back their successful re-telling of The Nutcracker this month. The bold new take on the Christmas favourite was Artistic Director Ivan Cavallari’s first production for the company when he took up his role, now as he prepares to return to Europe the company is ready to set hearts aflutter once again.

Since its premiere in St Petersberg in December 1892 The Nutcracker has become one of the most performed ballets of all time. The story and names of the characters have changed with choreographers creating new productions, but the basic storyline is a tale of children Clara and Fritz who are whisked away on Christmas Eve to a magical land of dancing snowflakes and sugar plum fairies by their Uncle, the magician Drosselmeyer.

OUTinPerth spoke to dancer Daniel Roberts who is set to play the lead role of Peter in the production. Robert’s told us about the first time he performed The Nutcracker.

‘I first did it when I was at The Australian Ballet School in my final year, it was the traditional version, and I played Drosselmeyer, who in the traditional story is a magician uncle of Clara who takes her on a journey, but this is my first time performing Ivan’s version.’

Roberts explains that Cavallari’s modern take on the classic story, which given the tale an Australian setting, is completely different to the traditional story,

‘It’s radically different. It’s about two sixteen year old school kids, Peter and Clara. Peter is basically trying to crack on to Clara on the internet, but he’s pretending to be someone else, his screen name is Nutcracker. He’s pretending to be this well travelled professional guy who’s a bit older than her. She’s madly in love with this person online but it turns out it’s actually Peter from her class at school. That’s where the young love story comes from.

In updating the story for a modern audience, the internet has come to be a big part of the storytelling process in this production.

‘In this version Drosselmeyer is played by a woman, it’s Miss Drosselmeyer and she’s our teacher at school. The whole performance is done behind gauze and a lot of the story is told by SMS on the screen, so you see us chatting to each other and what we’re writing to each other. It’s a great production.’

Performing behind a screen creates an unusual stage setting for the performers, Roberts explains,

‘It’s strange because you don’t see the audience at all because we’re behind the gauze the whole time, so we’re dancing within four walls, and usually it’s just three. I’m starting to get used to that. It’s challenging stamina wise. It’s a big role, it’s one of the first principal roles I’ve done all the way through. Really though it’s fun!’

For Roberts playing a 16 year old boy has given him the challenge of tapping into the psyche of a teenager – remembering what he himself was like just a few years ago,

‘I don’t think I was as coy as this character is, I think I was much more confident’, he laughs, ‘At sixteen I was probably more confident that I am now I think. I can definitely imagine what Peter is going through.’

Tchaikovsky’s score for the ballet includes some of his most well known music he ever created, instantly recognisable – even to people who have no interest in ballet or classical music. Robert’s reveals that one of the great things about this new version is that some of the classic pieces usually performed by female dancers is reassigned to different parts.

‘I love the music, we all love the music, and in this version the last pas-de-deux is to the snowflake music and it goes for about seven minutes, it’s usually a big core piece and is performed with a lot of girls – but this version it’s just me and Clara for the whole time. So stamina wise it’s really hard but the music is just so special. It just carries you through!’

The Nutcracker is on at His Majestie’s Theatre from November 23 to December 9, tickets can be purchased from Tikatek.

Graeme Watson

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