Somewhere between digesting far too much turkey dinner and starting off a new year with far too much bubbly falls another holiday tradition: The Nutcracker ballet, which makes its usual Christmas week stop at Kitchener’s Centre In The Square Dec. 28.
Having been well received since its introduction in 2008, The Ballet Jörgen production is set against a backdrop featuring the artistry of the Group of Seven. Those world-famous images of the rural north make this a distinctly Canadian version of the traditional Christmas favourite.
“It’s the traditional Nutcracker story, but set in a Canadian context,” explains Bengt Jörgen, artistic director of the Toronto-based company, noting the tale is versatile enough to be adapted, in this case moving from its German setting to the lakefront areas that inspired the artists who became the Group of Seven. Klara and the Nutcracker Prince are still front and center, but inhabit a world that includes a wintry schoolhouse in Bisset, Ontario (a locale used by the artists) and the wetlands of Algonquin Park.
It’s a Canadian landscape filled with snowflakes, Mounties, and charming woodland creatures.
Choreographed by Jörgen to Tchaikovsky’s familiar score, this distinctly Canuck adaptation evolved from a collaboration with the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, which has allowed three of the great 20th century Canadian landscape artists to be featured: Franklin Carmichael (Church and Houses at Bisset, 1931), Tom Thomson (Snow in the Woods, 1916) and L.L. FitzGerald (Trees and Wildflowers, 1922).
In addition to the traditional Nutcracker characters, this version has added loons, birches, dragonflies, beavers and squirrels, among others.
“It’s a Northern Ontario feel to a very traditional ballet.”
The ballet’s second act is noted for its celebration of dances (various nationalities in the original). This Nutcracker follows that tradition, but places the second act in a Canadian summer setting with trillium flowers, raccoons, loons, dragonflies, bears, Mother Spruce, and a grand pas de deux danced by the King and Queen Birch.
For Jörgen, the production localizes the story but also makes it more compelling to audiences, especially to the children for whom the Nutcracker is their first exposure to ballet. With more action and more creatures, this version holds those youngsters’ attention. And the renowned imagery of the Group of Seven serves to captivate the adults, he notes.
The Nutcracker, a Canadian Tradition takes to the stage for two performances Dec. 28 (2 and 7:30 p.m.) at the Centre in the Square. Tickets are $34-$75, available from the box office by calling 578-1570 or online at www.centre-square.com.