The Nutcracker on Ice
These bravado Russians on ice have skated across Australia already with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and twice with Swan Lake. Now they’re back with an ice version of Tchaikovsky’s 1890’s ballet, The Nutcracker.
It’s snowy Christmas in St Petersburg and young Marie Pavlov is opening her presents, amongst high jinks skating from her family and friends. Marie is entranced by the gift of the Nutcracker doll, and later watches her living room magically shrink to miniature and a battle ensure between the mice and the soldier dolls. That’s about it for the story. In the second act, she and her doll – now fleshed out into a gorgeous Prince – arrive at his Kingdom of Sweets, and settle in for a dancing roll call of divertissements from China to Spain.
This Nutcracker drips with the usual sweet Christmas traditions, aimed at the kids. But it’s also for all of us who admire twenty or so world champion skaters bringing speed, leaps and spins to an old pantomime. Their skills are astonishing, spinning into a blur, flying through the air as Arabian dancers on trapeze and spraying up the ice. Nutcracker truly satisfies in those moments when this mix of sports and circus expertise lifts into virtuosic dance. The good thing about dancers on ice is that they can relocate across the stage in a second, with none of that pattering into position which makes ballet look so ridiculous.
As Marie and her Prince, Anastasia Ignatyeva and Bogdan Berezenko (pictured) sublimely combine all forms when they dance and skate together to Tchaikovsky’s soaring romantic climax. It’s a pity the music is recorded and big Russian storytelling theatre like this can be an overly straight affair (without irony, whimsy or attitude). But Nutcracker is backed with a riot of colourful costumes and splendid sets by Australia’s Eamon D'Arcy. When daggy pantomime threatens, high sports skills and some emotional moments of pure artistry lift this show into another realm.
There is something mystical about a masterful ice-skater in full flight capturing space and defying gravity. Poetry in motion. Stated above the curtain at this opening performance in Brisbane were the words 'The Imperial Ice Stars'; and this they were. Combining the essence of ballet and the acrobatic style of a circus arena, complete with magic, this tour de force was a colourful, imaginative and impressive presentation by a company of expertly trained and rehearsed performers. Their technique was impeccable, appearing effortless against the overwhelming odds of restrictive stage space but, moreso, some skating moves that were complex and more dangerous than they appeared. With some stunning choreography from Tony Mercer and a presentation reminiscent of a Matthew Bourne production, the show was further enhanced by outstanding performances from Bogdan Berezenko as the Nutcracker Prince, Anastasia Ignatyeva as Marie whilst Andrey Penkin's contribution as Marie's brother/Paige was mesmerising. The 'circus-touch' flying sequence from Fiona Kirk and V. Khodakivskyy had the audience gobsmacked.