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The Northern Ballet’s Nutcracker: A festive treat absolutely to my taste

PUBLISHED: 09:03 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:36 29 November 2018

Rachael Gillespie as Clara with Ashley Dixon as the Nutcracker Prince in Northern Ballet's production. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

Rachael Gillespie as Clara with Ashley Dixon as the Nutcracker Prince in Northern Ballet's production. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

Emma Kauldhar

I know it’s a big claim; but I don’t think there’s any better way to get into the festive spirit than going to see The Nutcracker.

Ayami Miyata in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma KauldharAyami Miyata in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

Done traditionally, (and in my opinion the right way) everything from the set to the costumes, to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score and the delightful storyline, should shout Christmas.

And The Northern Ballet has absolutely nailed it.

The Leeds-based company have been a favourite of mine for a long time.

For a classical company their choreography leans towards the lyrical; their lifts are sweeping and romantic, with the corps de ballet inclining towards classical poses instead of being uniformedly stuck in them.

Mlindi Kulashe as Drosselmeyer and Rachael Gillespie as Clara in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma KauldharMlindi Kulashe as Drosselmeyer and Rachael Gillespie as Clara in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

The ballet unfolds with beautiful fluidity – partly down to style, but also courtesy of the choreography.

In this case artistic director David Nixon has taken the reimagined choreography of 2007.

This choreography plays with classic balancé and en cloche movements, which both have an easy, pendulum-like motion to them.

Sometimes a flare of Spanish influence is thrown in – which worked well for the Waltz of the Flowers – sometimes they are bought uncharacteristically into lifts.

Northern Ballet dancers in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma KauldharNorthern Ballet dancers in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

They’ve also cast this performance well.

Rachel Gillespie as Clara was a delight to watch, her movement is dynamic and light – perfect for her role.

Likewise Minju Kang’s use of resistance both in her feet and limbs gives her exceptional balance and control.

It translated well for the elegance needed to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Northern Ballet dancers in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma KauldharNorthern Ballet dancers in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

Watching Ms Kang made it seem as though the live orchestra was waiting for her – hitting her moments perfectly on time without any race to get there.

However the star of the show in my opinion was Kevin Poeung, who is exceptional.

His technique and agility is the best I saw from the male dancers – who I regret to say were the ones which slightly let the show down.

I’ve never watched a Northern Ballet performance and been aware that the standard was lower than The Royal, The Bolshoi, or similar.

Rachael Gillespie as Clara with Northern Ballet dancers in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma KauldharRachael Gillespie as Clara with Northern Ballet dancers in The Nutcracker. Photo: Emma Kauldhar

But for the first time I noticed, and was left a bit underwhelmed with the men’s performances.

They didn’t make the most of the music for the Russian dance – which when it’s done well by the larger companies is astounding.

But, I have seen this ballet 10 times- so holding the Northern to those standards is a bit unfair.

Irrespective of that one dance, the performance overall is glorious.

You’ll leave the theatre beaming and humming the Waltz of the Snowflakes – I couldn’t recommend it more.

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