Nutcrackers grow in repertory. English National Ballet’s largely traditional production is getting more focused with time, its storytelling tighter. On opening night, it also had a ballerina of crystalline brightness in Alina Cojocaru – though she doesn’t yet look quite at home here.
A tiny dancer with grand, expansive lines, Cojocaru came to ENB from The Royal Ballet. As Clara, The Nutcracker’s child heroine, she moves with youthful spontaneity. Her dancing is delicately phrased, but she lacks chemistry with her Prince, ENB’s new Cuban-born principal, Alejandro Virelles. A long-limbed dancer, Virelles moves with plush warmth, but needs a more theatrical dash.
Wayne Eagling’s production is bedding down nicely. The narrative has been made clearer, less fussy. The national dances are stronger, having quietly dropped some bizarre overtones, and are danced with a flourish. The opening skating scene is delightful, with dancers skimming over the stage.
Peter Farmer’s designs have too much beige: it’s a relief to see some colour in the magic scenes, particularly the hot air balloon that carries Clara away. The mouse battle has buoyant comic timing, led by James Streeter’s swaggering Mouse King. Ksenia Ovsyanick sparkles as the heroine’s sister Clara.
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