Snow freckled the stage as the jig of the Mouse King began, and then came the Christmas party.
And it was time to dance.
Nutcracker on Ice, set to Tchaikovsky’s score, was a lesson in acrobatics.
While there were impressive twizzles, or multirotational one-foot turns, and kilians — fast couple routines — the character that really wowed was not that of the protagonist but her grandmother. She upgraded ballet with what looked like hip hop on ice and at one point even did a little moonwalk.
Making a nuisance of herself by becoming the third wheel, stealing the girls’ dance partners and performing gravity-defying dance moves, that “little ol’ lady” sure stole the show.
Well, until the father decided to jump into the act, flawlessly spinning in circles.
Next up was the children’s godfather Drosselmeyer who performed magic tricks, everything from making a stick float in air to making granny go poof on stage — quite reminiscent of the Illusionists — and brought out the Nutcracker.
After a dance and a skirmish that left the toy soldier broken, the kids were off to bed. But then the protagonist goes back to see him and encounters the Mouse King and a life-size Nutcracker, who saves her.
He then takes her to the realm of dreams and fairies though the enchanted forest. The dance of snowflakes is particularly beautiful, with graceful dancers blending into the background, with only their tutus with lights gleaming on stage; it’s like a field of fireflies decided to take to the floor for your pleasure. Scene changes
The plum fairies kingdom is stunning, too; it’s where the events are retold and then ensues a celebration complete with daredevil acrobatics — at one point a dancer is standing on another, both mid-air and hanging from ariel silk.
While the dances may have been fantastic, what I found most fascinating were the sets. The scene changes were timed perfectly, and in the matter of a few seconds would dramatically alter the stage. The word world-class is often over used, so I’ll just say Dubai Opera set a stunning example of what’s possible — snowfall indoors anyone? The negative was that our seats were not right up front. From the balcony, you squint and picture the dancers’ expressions — however, fortunately their body language and expressiveness mostly made up for the slight headache afterwords.
This ballet is an adaptation of the famous The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, a fairy tale written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann.
And the Nutcracker did definitely weave a magical dream.
Don’t miss it!
Nutcracker on Ice is on at the Dubai Opera until December 10. Go to dubaiopera.com.