Christmas has come early with this colourful and cute version of The Nutcracker. Presented by the Melbourne Academy of Arts students with professional dancers performing the lead roles, it’s a massive undertaking. Dancers as young as five and all the way up to pre-professional level fill the expansive cast.
Melbourne Academy of Arts follows the Russian syllabus, Vaganova Method, which teaches a set curriculum of levels. By the time students reach their teenage years, they are generally quite skilled and potentially on their way to ballet careers. Having professional artists alongside the students is an amazing opportunity for the developing dancers to grow, improve and feel inspired.
In this production, Leonore Baulac from The Paris Opera Ballet was Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy and Istvan Simon from Dresden Ballet and Dortmund Ballet was Nutcracker Prince/Sugar Plum Cavalier. Much loved retired principal dancer from The Australian Ballet, Damien Welch, played Drosselmeyer.
Seeing a cast of prep age students all the way up to professionals who have already experienced the heights of their ballet careers is a great reminder of the stages and the long-term process to create/train/make a classical dancer. It’s a lifetime’s work, with commitment at every year of development. They say it takes a village to raise a child – it also takes a whole artistic community to shape a dancer to the highest echelons of success.
Within this show there were guest artists, guest principal character artists and guest principal artists, plus the all the students in every grade of the Vaganova Method at the Melbourne Academy of Arts.
Across the board, every person gave it their all, with standouts from Mantraa Rane (partnered by guest principal Sebastian Vinet) especially in the Arabian Coffee duet and William Cheung in Chinese Tea. The snowflake ensemble in Land of Snow and the sextet of angels in Act II were also highlights.
The youngest students were beyond adorable in the candy-themed section Mother Ginger and her Bon Bons. Who can resist brightly dressed little dancers scrambling around with oversized sweets?
In Waltz of the Flowers, intersecting lines of Roses, Tulips, Carnations and Peonies filled the stage with pleasing linear patterns.
There were many opportunities for the older students to shine, but the main pas de deux and starring work was in the hands (and feet) of Baulac and Simon who were gracious, clean lead dancers. Baulac emitted a sweetness and innocence as the young Clara that was in stride with the entire production while Simon sustained a strong, steady technique, especially in all the jumping work.
This Nutcracker lasted only three epic shows – all the little flowers, sweets and angels have to get back to school now and rest up before they get back to the ballet barre for Term Four classes!
Melbourne Academy of Arts & Australian National Youth Ballet present
Venue: The National Theatre | 20 Carlisle St (Cnr Barkly St) St Kilda VIC
Dates: 29 – 30 September 2023