Ballet De Monte Carlo
The Nutcracker
Monaco, December 26

Premiering a new ballet, choreographer and artistic director of the renowned Monte Carlo’s ballet Jean Christophe Maillot couldn’t have asked for a more festive occasion, celebrating 20 fruitful years with the company. Outdoors, the snow-capped mountains towering over the miniature principality – a notch larger than the Vatican state – inspire the opulent season’s decorations.

Inside, to the audience’s delight a line of dignitaries including reigning Prince Albert II, princesses Caroline de Hanover – Grace Kelly’s daughter and patron of the company, and others, skipped the royal box and sat among the crowd.

The Nutcracker set to the music of Tchaikovsky is one of the most beloved classical ballets. The story takes place on the eve of Christmas, and is traditionally performed at this time of year. Maillot, like a long line of choreographers in past decades, had opted for an ambitious reconstruction based quite lightly on the original linear narrative and characters, and more heavily on a medley of his own ballets, deploying an innovating dramaturgical approach.

The stage actions intertwined various narratives and perspectives, from backstage rehearsal scenes to a surreal fantasy land, as the storyline hops among Maillots former works, leading the audience on a turbulent voyage of thematic riddles. You are whisked, for instance, from Romeo and Juliet to Midsummer’s Night Dream, through Cinderella to the circus and back, for starters.

One minute you identify with the little girl Clara, dreaming about her Christmas toy soldier turned beau, and the next, the impish Puck from Midsummer’s Night rides a flower-shaped Segway and spreads love dust. Confused? So were lots of out-of-town people who missed the scattered references to Maillot’s former creations. But Maillot, in the end, only wanted to have a great celebration, salute his company with its 50 strong dancers, and have tongue-in-cheek fun. And it actually was.

A huge, colorful stage, grandiose costumes, the renowned Monte Carlo philharmonic orchestra playing live for a terrific group of dancers, including the company’s regal Bernice Coppieters, and the amazing, sparkly dancer Jeroen Verbruggen, who stole the show.

At the end, when a thick shower of paper flakes and ribbons flooded the stage and hall, all you could see were grins and smiles.

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