The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker

Yesterday I was invited to a pre-screening of a filmed version of the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker, which will be shown later this month at cinemas in New York and around the country by Emerging Pictures’ Ballet in Cinema series. Check their website for local schedules.

The Royal Ballet version was very good, albeit different from what I’m used to (which, as a New Yorker, is basically Balanchine’s). The Royal’s was directed and choreographed by Peter Wright (after Ivanov), the orchestra conducted by Koen Kessels, and was originally shown at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden in December 2009.

The biggest difference between this and Balanchine’s is that Clara and the Nutcracker Prince dance all throughout the second half, the Land of the Sweets (here called the Sugar Garden). They participate in the Arabian dance, the Russian dance, the Chinese dance, and the flower dances. The dancer who dances Clara (unfortunately, I don’t have a full cast list and didn’t get her name from the quickly scrolling credits at the end of the film, so I don’t know her name) was older – not a child – and she was a really beautiful dancer. Very fluid, light, willowy, with an innocence in her movement. Very child-like (in a good way, because it was called for here). At first I didn’t like that they danced throughout because I thought at points it almost looked like they were making fun of the various styles of dance. But then I realized, no they weren’t doing that at all; they were playing and having fun, like children would, and like audiences composed heavily of children would want to see them do, and would want to do themselves. The Nutcracker Prince’s name I do have – Steven McRae, and he was very good.

The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince were danced brilliantly by Miyako Yoshida and McRae. The ending pas de deux was a traditional one and it was danced just about the best I’ve ever seen it. Yoshida in particular was really stunning. She’s a small dancer but has a lot of power – particularly in her developes –  her leg just seems to shoot up there! Her assisted pirouettes and her fouettes done in a diagonal line were also stunning. She’s a fast, spirited dancer with great clarity in her lines, which were never over-extended and which she always finished with zest. But even with all the demanding athletics of that pas, she didn’t turn into an Olympic performance; she remained sweet and princess-like. It was really magical. It’s a performance I could have watched over and over again.

Drosselmeyer, the magician, really blew me away too. He is a main character here – he doesn’t just appear at the beginning to present the toys and give Clara her nutcracker doll; he acts as a guide all throughout the second half, bringing Clara and her prince on a tour through the Sugar Garden, presenting the various national dances to them. He’s clearly in charge of Clara’s dream, although at the end, there’s a little twist on that. You’ll have to see the production to find out what it is 🙂 And Drosselmeyer was portrayed very well by Gary Avis. It’s not a dance role, but requires a big stage presence and Avis really came through on that. He received lots of applause at the end and took all the curtain calls with all the main dancers.

The only thing I have to say – and this is not at all bad – but did Macaulay ever review dance in the U.K.? He was a theater critic for most of his career there, right? Because if he ever reviewed the Royal, I’d think he would have had to remark on the weight of some of the dancers. Some of them made Jenifer Ringer look like a twig. Not that they danced badly because of it. I think for a while I’m always going to be thinking “hey, she’s bigger than Jenifer Ringer, she’s bigger, she’s way bigger”…

Anyway, if anyone reading this is in the U.K. and / or has seen this production, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo taken from the Ballet in Cinema website.


  1. But didn’t the slow tempi drive you crazy?

  2. Any idea if they’ll show it on PBS? The nearest theatre that is even showing it near me is Los Angeles 🙁

    • I wish PBS would broadcast some of these, like they do with some of the operas. That way everyone would get to see. It seems, from The Ballet Bag’s comment, that this production is available on DVD at least.

  3. Hi Tonya,

    As far as we know in this performance Iohna Loots was Clara, with Ricardo Cervera as Hans Peter/Nutcracker and Laura Morera as Rose Fairy. In the UK this production is available on DVD. Glad you liked McRae/Avis they’re fab! We are very fond of this production because of its darker tones and the fact that the prologue & epilogue build in elements from Hoffmann’s original tale.

    If you liked Miyako/Steven there are some lovely extracts of both on YT as her retirement performance of Romeo & Juliet in Tokyo this summer (with McRae as her Romeo) was broadcast on TV 🙂

    • Thank you! I knew you guys would know! Yes, I just received a full cast list and yes, it was Iohna Loots. I thought she was really wonderful. And yes, Cervera was the nutcracker. McRae was the sugar plum fairy’s cavalier / prince. I’ve never heard of Loots before, though. I really loved her – will have to look for her if I ever see the Royal Ballet live. I didn’t know Miyako retired – wow, she looked so young. I’ll definitely look for her on YouTube. Thank you for commenting, you guys 🙂

  4. This is actually the 3rd version of Peter Wright’s Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet available on DVD that I am aware of. The current one you mention is available on DVD in the US as well. The 1st version was released in 1985 with Lesley Collier (Sugarplum) and Anthony Dowell (Cavalier) and the 2nd version was released in 2001 with Anthony Dowell (Drosselmeyer), Alina Cojocaru (Clara), Miyako Yoshida (Sugarplum) and Jonathan Cope (Cavalier).

    You should definitely check them all out because it’s fun to see the differences over the years and how the choreography changed. Also there is another version by the Royal Birmingham Ballet (also choreographed by Wright) with Yoshida that I have not seen yet but plan on purchasing this year.

  5. Alina Cojucaro dances Clara

    • Alina Cojocaru dances Clara in the 2001 version, not in this one.

      And strangely enough, there are two versions of the one featuring Iohna Loots. One, which is out on DVD and has been shown on American television, features Miyako Yoshida as the Sugar Plum Fairy, but there is a production on You Tube which features Alexandra Ansanelli as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

  6. Just wanted to point out that MaCauley lists Sara Means as one of his “best of” for 2010 and points out that her physique is not standard. He’s inconsistent. I think the reason he got into trouble with the Ringer piece is because he really phoned it in for the NYCB review. I found the entire article sloppy–it’s like he defaulted and typed up a bunch of English puffery and, well, we got pretty much what he put into it.

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