A Night with the Nutcracker

arnaud-stephenson-ballet

I never thought much of ballet as a young man. A perception of toffs, privilege and ‘odd’ people hindered my interest. It took an assignment to Moscow in my late forties to stimulate my interest; a wonderful theatre – warm and elegant with Swan Lake’s music and beauty – in a cold and ugly grey city. What a surprise it was and what an occasion. I became an overnight convert.

Last night, two weeks before Christmas, in the provincial Torch Theatre overlooking Milford Haven’s harbour, the ballet transported me to an Arcadian world of grace and beauty. We sat in winter coats, no Bolshoi vestiary in the Torch, in worn padded seats in a large featureless hall to gaze at the cinema screen showing images of the sumptuous Royal Opera House. The camera panned to show dark yellow walls, table top lamps lighting up boxes surrounded by gilt plaster scrollwork and everywhere London’s finest and richest patrons dressed ready for an evening of delight.

The evening promised so much, it made me think. One hundred and twenty years ago, could Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky have imagined his music would be relayed simultaneously to thousand of theatres like the Torch in sixty three countries around the world?

True art stands the test of time. Stirring music brought to life by beautiful bodies executing graceful steps and jumps or jetés, pirouette and arabesques. Dancers made their twitching hands and fingers resemble snowflakes falling in the enchanting Dance of the Snowflakes. A pas de deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy in the arms of her prince inter-weaving among the sweetest of sweet dancers, an Arabian dance, a Spanish dance, Russians dancing, three Chinese men and one woman captivated with contortions sinuous movement, and a Rose Fairy among her escorts and flowers. Sublime movement choreographed synchronously to great music.

I sat captivated by it all. I marvelled at the human condition, at our ability to organise and create art which reaches out beyond borders of language to touch and stimulate; the musicians, dancers, costumers, choreographers, conductors, directors, teachers, and technicians in supporting roles who combined to produce a two-hour spectacular combination of the visual and aural in perfect harmony.

Thank you, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Royal Opera House, Sir Peter Wright, Boris Gruzin, and so many others as well as the dancers whose bodies graced the screen turning and leaping with elegance, grace, and precision in winding patterns of dazzling beauty. It was an evening to make old men happy and one which little girls will not forget.

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