Three ballet theaters welcome X-mas with ‘Nutcracker’
Three versions of “The Nutcracker” are coming soon to the stage. Each ballet production has, at first glance, some similarities, but upon closer inspection are subtly different.
With Christmas just around the corner, three ballet companies — the Korean National Ballet, Universal Ballet and the Seoul Ballet Theatre — will showcase their own productions of the beloved holiday story.
The Christmas shows are based on “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” a story written by E. T. A. Hoffmann in 1816. The story begins on Christmas Eve when a young Marie Stahlbaum receives a toy, a decorative fairytale nutcracker, as a Christmas gift. She goes to bed with the toy. In her dreams, the nutcracker comes alive and turns into a prince. The pair set off on a journey to a magical kingdom populated by a variety of dolls.
For many years now, the ballet version of this story has been staged at and around this time of year. Every time it comes to the stage, its popularity grows a little bit more, clearly showing no sign of waning.
The Korean National Ballet will perform Yury Grigorovich’s “Nutcracker.” The Russian choreographer’s production, set to Tchaikovsky’s music, premiered at the Bolshoi in 1966. In the upcoming show, some adaptations were made to the characters, as the heroine takes on the original name, Marie, instead of Clara. Her father is featured as a doctor, while Drosselmeyer, who gives the nutcracker toy to Marie, is a lawyer.
The toy is portrayed by a young dancer, instead of a wooden toy, who takes a ridiculous posture with his stiff limbs, sporting a funny facial expression. The story will unfold to the music of Tchaikovsky played by the Korean Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Park Tae-young will lead the orchestra.
Earlier in the season, Universal Ballet will welcome ballet lovers starting on December 19. At the Universal Arts Center in Gwangjin-gu, the company will bring to the stage Vasili Vainonen’s choreography from his 1934 shows, which were famously performed by Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Ballet.
Universal Ballet’s 2014 performances will feature magic shows, as well as a series of eye-catching scenes, including a battle between the nutcracker and the mice, a group dance by the snowflake fairies and by multinational toys from Russia, Spain, China and Arabia.
The highlight is in the scene in which Clara and the nutcracker, which has transformed himself into a prince, dance together to Tchaikovsky’s music. The shows will continue until the end of the month.
Finally, the Seoul Ballet Theatre (SBT) will put on a never-tried-before kind of “Nutcracker” show on December 27 and 28 at the Suwon SK Artrium in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province). SBT’s production was choreographed by its director James Jeon. He included some Korean elements in his choreography and costumes, as seen when some of the dancers twirl in a sangmo, a traditional hat with a ribbon worn by performers in the samulnori percussion quartets, while beating the janggu drum.
Always an audience favorite, Mother Ginger appears in traditional Korean attire, looking as if she’s a queen from Joseon times. Another character that shouldn’t be missed is Drosselmeyer, a role which will be played by choreographer James Jeon himself.
By Sohn JiAe
Korea.net Staff Writer
Photos: the Korean National Ballet, Universal Ballet and the Seoul Ballet Theatre