We might still be in November but Christmas is well and truly on its way now English National Ballet is delighting audiences with its dreamy Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Nothing gets me in the festive spirit quite like hearing the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. There are many different versions of this seasonal ballet but the magical music is timeless and immediately evokes feelings of anticipation, enjoyment, excitement, adventure and beauty. Superbly played by English National Ballet Philharmonic, the familiar compositions envelop audience members in a blissful ballet bubble from the overture right through to the finale.
The company’s current Nutcracker, choreographed by Wayne Eagling, is wonderfully wintery and heart-warmingly whimsical. On a frosty Christmas Eve in Edwardian London a family hosts a celebratory get-together. Among the guests is Drosselmeyer, a magician and maker of toys, and his handsome nephew. Young Clara is besotted with the nephew and eagerly dances with him before receiving a painted wooden nutcracker soldier from the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Thrilled with the gift, Clara happily dances with her new doll until a scuffle with her brother Freddie results in the nutcracker being damaged. Fortunately, Drosselmeyer works his magic to fix the wounded toy before the children are sent off to bed. What happens next is a fanciful adventure. Clara encounters an evil Mouse King, battles with the Nutcracker against an army of mice and travels to the Land of Snow. Later, she is entertained by dancers from all over the world, presented with a pretty posy of waltzing flowers and comes of age dancing with her very own prince.
English National Ballet First Artist Barry Drummond finds a few minutes between classes, performances and rehearsals to fill Georgina Butler in with his thoughts on dancing in Nutcracker and enjoying the magic of Christmas…
English National Ballet opens its acclaimed Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre this evening.
The festive family favourite boasts a sparkling seasonal story, captivating characters and delightful dancing. This ballet’s enduring popularity has seen the Company present a Nutcracker production every year since 1950, its founding year. Last Christmas, over 73,000 people made watching a performance of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum part of their holiday celebrations.
This year’s tour (beginning in Milton Keynes and then visiting Liverpool before a return to the Coliseum) continues the annual Nutcracker tradition while bringing choreographer Wayne Eagling’s version to audiences outside the capital.
First Artist Barry Drummond is already embracing the Yuletide season thanks to Nutcracker. As well as looking forward to being part of audience members’ Christmas celebrations, he is eager to make the most of his own festivities when the big day finally arrives!
“Nutcracker is a one-way ticket to festive cheer!”
[English National Ballet’s Barry Drummond performing as Older Freddie in Nutcracker. Photography by Ash.]
Prepare to be swept up in the magic of Christmas as English National Ballet brings its sparkling production of Nutcracker to Milton Keynes Theatre from Wednesday.
The Company’s dancers spent last week wowing audiences at Sadler’s Wells with Akram Khan’s Giselle.
Now, they are carefully rehearsing Nutcracker – the dazzling festive favourite which is guaranteed to enchant family members of all ages – to ensure their usual superb technique and artistry is showcased at its very best.
Masterful Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score, Wayne Eagling’s exuberant choreography and Peter Farmer’s exquisite designs effortlessly transport us to a frost-dusted Edwardian London.
Incredible dancing. Intense storytelling. Totally immersive. English National Ballet’s new Giselle by Akram Khan is an epic dance experience. Everything about the production is so inspired that, after joining an elated audience in a lengthy standing ovation, I left Sadler’s Wells utterly convinced that no words will ever do this masterpiece justice.
The company, under the direction of Tamara Rojo, is intent on evolving the art of ballet. While still honouring the classical tradition (the dancers begin their Nutcracker season at Milton Keynes Theatre next week), English National Ballet is adding amazing diversity to its repertoire with fresh new works. Following the resounding success of Khan’s Dust for the Lest We Forget programme, anticipation has been sky-high for his Giselle.
In short, it is a triumphant re-imagining of the 1841 Romantic Era ballet. All the essential themes – love, betrayal, revenge, the opposing realms of life and death – remain but Khan’s vision teases out the dark undertones that have always been there. Dragged to the surface, these elements are expressed with visceral urgency, arresting intent and harrowing sensibility.
Acclaimed choreographer and theatre/television director Dame Gillian Lynne is a legendary figure in the arts. With a career spanning more than 70 years, her achievements include being a ballerina with Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet), performing centre stage as the London Palladium’s lead dancer and choreographing some of the world’s most iconic musicals.
Georgina Butler made the most of an opportunity to converse with the multi-award-winning dance superstar…
Gillian Lynne is a household name – a VIP in the world of dance and theatre. Her CV is packed with soloist roles as a ballerina; guest appearances as a dancer on the stage and on television; and countless productions on which she has worked her magic as an internationally sought-after director and choreographer.
Joining the Ballet Guild in 1942, aged 16, marked the beginning of Gillian’s career as a professional dancer. By chance, Ninette de Valois, the founder of Sadler’s Wells Ballet (which later became The Royal Ballet), saw Gillian dancing as Odette in Ballet Guild’s production of Swan Lake and immediately decided she wanted the talented young artist in her company. When Gillian accepted this invitation, she was the first dancer to join Sadler’s Wells Ballet who had not studied at its prestigious feeder school (now The Royal Ballet School). Possessing a gift for dancing; a desire to follow her dreams; and a tenacious work ethic, Gillian flourished as a ballerina and was later an instant success at the London Palladium and in subsequent roles in the West End.
Perhaps most famous for her ground-breaking choreography in Cats and The Phantom of the Opera (both with Andrew Lloyd Webber), Gillian has choreographed or directed over 60 productions in the West End and on Broadway. These productions have won numerous accolades and Gillian has been presented with multiple awards, including two Olivier Awards – one an Award for Outstanding Achievement for her choreography of Cats in 1981, the other a Lifetime Achievement ‘Special’ Olivier presented to her in 2013.