Based on ET A Hoffman's classic fairy tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the Imperial Russian Ballet Company brings Tchaikovsky's enduring score to life this season with a shimmering interpretation of the Christmas story.

Under the direction of current artistic director and choreographer, Gediminas Taranda (former principal dancer at the Bolshoi Theatre) the company presents the story of Clara, a young girl on Christmas Eve who is given a nutcracker doll as a present.

Unfortunately during the evening's festivities her brother succeeds in breaking her doll, leaving her so upset she wakes up in the night to visit her doll. To her surprise, a full-fledged war between the nutcracker and his arch-nemesis the Mouse King is underway beneath the Christmas tree; without a second thought she leaps to the defence of her toy.
As reality slips away, a beautiful unearthly world emerges, one where Clara and her Nutcracker prince can be together.

Featuring the choreography of Vasili Vaionen with revisions by Taranda, this version presents all the familiar charm of a timeless story with some startlingly superb routines. Principal soloists Lina Seveliova (Clara) and Nariman Bekzhanov demonstrate exquisite execution and control throughout the performance and especially in their pas de deux.

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They are also more than ably supported by the soloists including Vladimir Dorofeev (the Mouse King) and Sofia Kuchmenko (The Nutcracker Doll) who, along with the rest of company, are proven virtuosos of their art form.

Although there is no live orchestra (which is sorely missed), the sheer finesse of the dancers and their technique is impressive. However, what adds genuine magic to this season is the inclusion of young dancers from the Devonport School of Dance. Actively participating as the mice, cavalry, gunners, angels and gnomes the young ballet dancers gave performances on opening night that were deliciously light-hearted and whimsical. A special mention must go to the wee little mouse Myla McKeowan.

Rich, highly textured sets designed with remarkable attention to detail, delicate lighting and excellent production values make this production as sweet as anything you could expect from the Sugarplum Fairy herself.

What: The Nutcracker by The Imperial Russian Ballet Company
Where & when: ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Tonight and Tomorrow.