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Tales from the Ballet: The Nutcracker

Tales from the Ballet: The Nutcracker

For me, there is no other children’s story that embodies the Christmas spirit more than the Nutcracker. The Australian Ballet is performing this classic Ballet during December as their Storytime Ballet. It's perfect to take your children along to.

Dancing the Nutcracker

During my career with the Australian Ballet, I was lucky enough to play the lead role of Clara in The Nutcracker.

With the wonderful choreography of Graeme Murphy, the then director of Sydney Dance Company, I was able to be a part of bringing the magic of Christmas to audiences across Australia. In his own words, Graeme’s version of the famous ballet “masterfully weaves together the enchantment and fantasy of the beloved classic with emotion and depth with a modern perspective”. 

I was always a fan of the Nutcracker as it was one of the Christmas stories I was read as a child and remembered fondly. Being able to play Clara was a truly magical experience.

The role of Clara is challenging, with a combination of technical components in the ballet and having to keep very much in character. In Graeme’s version, there were three full acts that entailed around three hours of dancing.

Some partnering scenes involved many tricks that took months of practice to gain a level of perfection. My Partner for this season of The Nutcracker was Robert Curren. He had the perfect amount of strength and romantic finesse in all his movements. Robert had a way of making the lifts and technically difficult moves appear easy which helped me relax knowing I was in good hands.

Artists of the Australian Ballet. Photography Jeff Busby.

About the Nutcracker

The Nutcracker embodies the beautiful memories of your childhood and the dreams you had waiting for Christmas day to come. All the lovely gifts under an oversized Christmas tree, and the play of your imagination of what it would be like if your toys and Christmas ornaments came to life!

The Nutcracker is a ballet in two acts which begins on Christmas Eve with decorating a beautiful Christmas Tree. Drosselmeyer, a magician, gives the children gifts, including a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a man. Clara immediately takes a liking to it but Fritz breaks it, and Clara is heartbroken.

During the night Clara returns to see the nutcracker and as the clock strikes midnight all the decorations and toys come to life and she finds herself in the midst of a battle between the nutcracker and his gingerbread soldiers, and the Mouse King and his mice.

Clara distracts the Mouse King which allows the nutcracker to defeat him. The nutcracker is then transformed into a handsome Prince.

In act 2, Clara and the Prince travel to the Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince recounts for her how he had been saved from the Mouse King by Clara. In honor of the young heroine, a celebration of sweets ensues. A final waltz is performed by all the sweets, after which the Sugar Plum Fairy leads Clara and the Prince to a reindeer-drawn sleigh. As it takes off they wave goodbye to all their subjects.

The Nutcracker score and the orchestral performance can sweep you away into your imagination as the ballet unfolds before you. 

My Favourite Moments

There were so many beautiful moments in this ballet for me. Three of my favourites were:

  • When the curtains are down, and you're waiting for the performance to begin, there's an incredible build-up of anticipation. All the months of practice and hard work are behind you and you can't wait to be the most beautiful Clara you can be, telling her story with your whole being to the audience.
  • The scene when Clara wakes up from her sleep and climbs down to dance is one of the most exciting and technically difficult Pas De Deux in a ballet. In a simple white dress with my soldier partner lifting me from my bedroom as if I was feather gliding through the air. I loved hearing the audience’s reaction to the difficult dancing on stage.
  • Another highlight is, of course, the stunning costumes that were part of the role of Clara. There were costumes that were dripping with gold, in deep reds, with incredible beading, the like of which I didn't see in other ballets I performed. There are so many wonderful costumes in this story, from a giant mouse to stunning ball gowns, to the very famous snowflakes.

The Nutcracker is an exciting and visually stimulating ballet. Being able to perform these Ballets was a big inspiration to start my own Dancewear Company. To provide every little girl with a chance to feel like a ballerina on stage like I was. The Nutcracker is definitely a wonderful ballet to take your little ones to see and a great way to start the festive season.

The Australian Ballet performances are on until the 18th of December. You can purchase tickets here.

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