It's sad, sad, sad but every time I see the ENB Nutcracker Mirlitons I want to take them all home. What the hell I'd do with them I'm not entirely sure - probably just have them pose, mid-dance, statue-like or do their glorious routine when friends came around I suppose.
For a couple of minutes they seem to represent an absolute peak of perfection - lovely dancers, in lovely designs, dancing lovely steps to lovely music. Such bliss.
This is the third season of the 'new' Derek Deane Nutcracker and I now feel pretty comfortable with it. More to the point so did everybody else in the audience, including the elderly couple behind who did nothing but sigh in appreciation and pronounce how beautiful it was as each character came out. Was it annoying, well kind of, yes, but they were enjoying the subsidy they pay in their own way - sod the high art: it's entertainment and none of us should lose sight of that. Also good to see a fresh crop of youngsters coming to be seduced by live dance and music.
The plot, updated into modern-day Mayfair in the first act, canters along and the transformation scene somehow seems stronger this year though I don't think anything has actually changed. But it's still the second act which shines for me with all the national dances, Mirlitons of course and pdd. Only in the dance of the bags of sweets do I feel a little taken advantage of. But for a first performance of the season everybody seemed pretty well drilled and having fun on stage too. I particularly liked Joanna Maley in the Chinese dance and Simone Clarke in the Spanish - she is a bit like Leanne Benjamin, in that you are not quite sure where she will finish at times, but what guts and brio in the doing of it.
In the four principal roles it was one of the strongest casts that ENB can muster with Tomas Edur and Agnes Oaks as Prince and Sugar, Daria Klimentova as the Ice Queen and Tamara Rojo as Clara. Everybody now knows that Tom is quite the best prince you are liable to see and yet he still catches you unawares - and you find yourself sighing (privately in my case) at the sheer perfection of it. Agnes is stately too - in that kind of Russian and slightly elevated way that somehow seems to make the night all the more special.
Daria, seemed to be humming along with the music at one point and was flashing big smiles all over the auditorium: all very fetching and more technical sharpness. And Tamara knows how to do Clara justice - though she has a rather more knowing look these days. Perhaps that was just dancing with the boss - Derek Deane, the company's artistic director, was dancing Drosselmeyer and is a showman down to his fingertips.
So from a dance lover's perspective there was lots to see and of course there are many different cast permutations coming up as well. In the new year Agnes Letestu and Jose Martinez from Paris Opera Ballet are guesting in a few performances even. But it doesn't really matter which cast you see in a way - the Nut is about soaking up Christmas spirit - and going with the happy throng who come but once or twice a year and go home very happy.
And none of them would be afraid to say they wanted to take the Mirlitons home either!