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.

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during English National Ballet's dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker

 

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One of the world’s greatest love stories comes alive in spectacular style with English National Ballet’s in-the-round production of Romeo and Juliet.

This glorious interpretation of Shakespeare’s tale of warring families and thwarted young lovers is currently captivating crowds of spectators at the Royal Albert Hall. Created by choreographer Derek Deane, the production was first seen 16 years ago when English National Ballet’s current artistic director, Tamara Rojo, was a young dancer in the Company. As Deane’s original Juliet back in 1998, Tamara is revisiting the role for some performances alongside her former dance partner Carlos Acosta, who joins the cast as a guest artist.

I was fortunate enough to see the young Russian principal dancer Vadim Muntagirov (who left English National Ballet to join The Royal Ballet in February 2014) return as a guest artist to partner the dazzling Daria Klimentová. Reunited as Romeo and Juliet for selected performances of this powerful ballet, Vadim and Daria are giving audiences the final chance to witness their perfect partnership before Daria also bids farewell to the Company. She will retire at the end of the run after 25 years as a professional dancer – 18 of which she has spent with English National Ballet – performing for the last time on Sunday (22nd June).

 

English National Ballet's Romeo & Juliet

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