It's unlikely that Vancouverites will see snow for the holidays, but those who are dreaming of a white Christmas can head indoors and find sparkling snow, pond hockey and even polar bear cubs at a Canadian-themed production of The Nutcracker.
Presented by Ballet BC, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet production retains all the splendour and opulence of more traditional versions, but also folds in a snowy pond hockey game, a battle on Parliament Hill, and a mischievous brown bear that steals the Christmas pudding, along with the Arabian dancers, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Nutcracker Prince and more.
"People connect to it," says Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director André Lewis of the Canadian infusion. "There are mounted police, busby-hat guards, and the toy cupboard turns into Parliament Hill. And at one point, the kids come out in a Bay blanket. So all of those things give people a sense of nostalgia."
Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and set to a score by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker was first presented in St. Petersburg in 1892, and has since become synonymous with the holiday season, drawing audiences generation after generation.
"I have always said to people, 'You might have seen it 20 times, but not with the people that you will see tonight,'" Mr. Lewis says. "It's like somebody saying, 'I've tried wine so I'm never going to do it again.'"
Choreographed by Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet production features top professional dancers, along with 70 aspiring young performers from 20 dance schools across the Lower Mainland, among them a gaggle of tiny tots who become playful polar bear cubs – a nod to the new orphan rescues at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg.
"It may sound like we're grabbing people's heartstrings, but that's what Nutcracker is about," Mr. Lewis says with a warm laugh. "And that's what Christmas is about, too – connecting with family, friends and those values. So I'm not apologetic about it."
Nutcracker is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Friday through Sunday (ticketmaster.ca).