It’s such an honour to bring to Ottawa a vast world of dance, shaped by some of the most gifted and innovative artists working across a broad spectrum of styles and influences. As we continue to search out the best and brightest dance companies to present to you, our wonderfully receptive and enthusiastic audience, we invite you to explore the new and the familiar on this extraordinary journey of life in motion!
I love Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The company’s beautiful depiction of this timeless story masterfully combines magic and delight with authentic turn-of-the-century opulence. For so many people, The Nutcracker is a first dance experience that evolves into a life-long love affair with the art form – grandparents, kids and many friends in between maintain this special event as a beloved holiday ritual. Enjoy!
In 2018, Alberta Ballet celebrates the 10th anniversary of choreographer Edmund Stripe’s The Nutcracker.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky was the first major composer to use the celesta (invented in 1886) in a work for full symphony orchestra. Listen for it in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Nearly 100 young local dancers take part in The Nutcracker production, which is often their first performing experience.
The Nutcracker is a magnificent tradition, a crescendo moment in a ballet company’s season.
The Nutcracker is a moment of pause for communities to celebrate art, tradition and some very beautiful ballet. This is true of Alberta Ballet’s production, choreographed by Edmund Stripe. The sets and costumes, designed by Emmy-award winner Zach Brown, create a purely magical staging. Inspired opulence meets historical authenticity in this turn-of-the-century Russian setting. The set of Act I is modelled after Tchaikovsky’s own St. Petersburg drawing room!
But truly, at the heart of the joy in returning to this production each year is the connection it has with children. In the audience, there are children who are seeing ballet for the first time. And on stage, local dance students live a dream-like thrill of performing on stage alongside professionals.
We’re well aware of the inspiring spark of this magical event. Many of our dancers identify The Nutcracker as the production that introduced them to ballet.
A warm thank you to Merilee Hodgins and Mary Ross for their invaluable support in rehearsing the children’s cast. They have been instrumental in preparing the students for their moment on stage!
I’d also like to extend a warm thank you to the wonderful team at the National Arts Centre. We’re honoured for this invitation to perform in Ottawa.
We live in a world that marches at a hectic cadence. Today, I welcome you to this moment in the majestic Southam Hall where you can pause with the ones you love. From the Alberta Ballet family to yours, we wish you a joyous holiday season.
Our story begins far away in Russia, at the turn of the 19th century. It is Christmas Eve and the Vishinsky family is welcoming guests to a party at their home. Their children, Klara and Nikolai, play ‘Blind Man’s Buff’ with the other young guests at the party. The game ends with Klara catching Nikolai. Presents are distributed and Klara and Nikolai lead the children in a boisterous dance. The parents, in turn, dance a courtly quadrille.
Suddenly, there is an interruption. It is the arrival of Drosselmeyer, Klara’s godfather. He has arrived at the party with tricks and mechanical dolls to entertain the guests. His dolls perform an elaborate play, telling the story of a man who once made a mousetrap that was so successful that it enraged the Rat Tsar. The Rat Tsar took revenge on the man by turning his nephew into a hideous nutcracker. The only way to break the spell was to find someone who would love the nutcracker, not for what he looked like, but for what he was.
In the play, the young soldier, who is changed into a nutcracker, is helped by a young ballerina who falls in love with him. She defeats the toy Rat Tsar by hitting him on the head with her slipper.
After the play, Drosselmeyer invites Klara to dance with him, mysteriously presenting her with a nutcracker of her own. Nikolai accidentally breaks the nutcracker, but Klara soon forgives him. Drosselmeyer fixes the nutcracker, and Klara and the girls play with their dolls, despite some interruption by the boys and a somewhat overexcited grandfather.
Grandfather and Babushka are invited to dance, the parents and children joining in the fun.
The party ends and the guests depart, the parents taking their weary children with them. Drosselmeyer also appears to leave the party. Klara looks around searching frantically for her nutcracker. But it is nowhere to be seen and Babushka packs Nikolai and Klara off to bed.
Later that night, Klara returns downstairs to the parlour to search for her nutcracker. The town hall clock strikes midnight and at once she is surrounded by mice. Suddenly, Drosselmeyer appears and sends the mice to sleep. He explains to Klara that it was actually he who was being portrayed in the play earlier that evening and it was he who had built the mousetrap that had angered the Rat Tsar. The Rat Tsar, in revenge, had transformed his nephew, Karl, into a nutcracker, the very nutcracker that Klara was now holding!
With Klara’s promise to love the nutcracker, Drosselmeyer employs his magic, causing the room to grow and themselves to shrink. The nutcracker now reappears, life-size to the now tiny Klara and Drosselmeyer. An army of soldiers stream out of the fort to engage in a battle with the cossack rats that have gathered on the other side of the parlour. With the nutcracker leading the soldiers, a fierce battle ensues and eventually the Rat Tsar himself appears. With his powerful magic, he attempts to attack Drosselmeyer, but the nutcracker intervenes to save his uncle.
Klara remembers the play that Drosselmeyer had presented in the parlour that evening and how the ballerina defeated the Rat Tsar by hitting him on the head with her shoe. She strikes the Rat Tsar on the head, distracting him long enough for the nutcracker to attack him with his own sceptre.
The Rat Tsar is mortally wounded and the nutcracker collapses in pain at the feet of Klara and Drosselmeyer. Drosselmeyer realizes that his plans, and his magic, are still not enough to transform his nephew. Klara and Drosselmeyer sense that their surroundings are changing and as Klara seeks help, she encounters wolves that she thinks are there to devour her precious nutcracker. However, the wolves are the attendants of the Snow Tsarina who appears in her sleigh. She instructs Drosselmeyer to stand the nutcracker up and with a wave of her hand, casts a spell that transforms the nutcracker back into Karl. It takes a moment or two for Karl to realize that he is human again. Once he does, he embraces Drosselmeyer and Klara, and thanks the Snow Tsarina for her life-restoring spell.
The Snow Tsarina summons her Snow Princesses and as Klara and Karl frolic in the snow, she guides them towards a mysterious palace far away in the distance.
The Snow Tsarina leads the sleigh to the gates of the Palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy. There they are greeted by the Palace Pages and are introduced to the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. The Sugar Plum Fairy introduces guests from all over the world and one by one they dance for Klara and Karl in celebration. There are dancers from Spain, Arabia, China and Russia. Klara and Karl dance and are then entertained by the Palace Pages and the Waltz of the Flowers. The celebrations continue with the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier dancing for their honoured guests, concluding in a rousing finale.
Very early the next morning, Klara answers a knock at the front door. It is Drosselmeyer. He bids her good morning and, from under his cape, produces a nutcracker. A young man, who seems strangely familiar to Klara enters, and as he and Drosselmeyer depart together, Klara begins to wonder whether it was all a dream after all.
William Sheriff Jr.
Laura Vande Zande
Victoria Mary Finlay Robinson, Shiori Otsu, Erika Hara, Braden Falusi, Guiherme Ventura, Alexander Bishop
Béatrice de Grandpré-Champagne
Valentina El Haibi
Bianca de Belle
Angie Di Iorio
Sofia Di Marco