Earlier this month our rather marvellous LEAP Ambassadors visited the Birmingham Hippodrome for a festive extravaganza... The Nutcracker. For decades Sir Peter Wright's magical production has dazzled and amazed audiences after it was gifted to the city 26 years ago. 

Here Sarah Batstone gives a glowing review of #BRBNutcracker and highlights the importance of ballet as an artform evolving for contemporary audiences.

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The ballet that started it all. For me, The Nutcracker has always been a show that has inspired me, and for many, Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Tchaikovsky’s musical score immediately hits you like a wave of nostalgia and in combination with the extravagant set, helps to transport you into a world where you can anticipate the unexpected - an enchanted world of wizardry and fantastical beings.

Act 1 opens with the relatable hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve. The grandparents struggling to keep up with the young boys who are running wild and causing a ruckus, and Drosselmeyer, the eccentric uncle, enters the room in an uproar of sparks, gifting Clara her treasured nutcracker doll.

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A single snowflake escaped in the beginning scene, falling to the floor, hinting to the audience the magical adventure that awaited them. But the highlight of Act 1 had to be the Waltz of the Snowflakes. The accompaniment starts soft, the increasing pace reflecting the intensifying blizzard on stage. The flute, light and airy, paired with the angelic voice of the children’s choir is contrasted by a sudden change in tempo as dancers jete across the stage - an army of snowflakes advancing in perfect synchronicity. The act then swiftly draws to a close as Clara is swept away by the Winds.

Moving into Act 2, the opening scene was simply stunning. As Clara soared through the air seated on the back of a swan, the audience erupted with amazed gasps. But for me, it was Miki Mizutani as the Sugar Plum Fairy that left me spellbound. She was not only spectacularly celestial but technically amazing, creating the seamless illusion of effortless perfection.

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Clara then dances with a whole array of new characters, but it was the Arabian’s lack of dark makeup and the Chinese’s more subdued performance which particularly grabbed my attention this year. Cultural appropriation has been such a hot topic recently and having so much cultural diversity within Birmingham, and the company itself, I think that no matter the light-hearted intentions, the ideas shown previously were well outdated. Therefore, the changes made were necessary and well respected, going to show how Birmingham Royal Ballet is willing to adapt to meet changing times.

After dancing through the enchanted Kingdom of Sweets, and the vision of pink which is Waltz of the Flowers, Clara falls asleep only to awake where her adventure first began. Leaving the audience to ponder the age-old question, was it all just simply a dream…?

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a show you can watch time and time again and still delight in. Therefore, this Christmas favourite shall remain beloved by all - the apple of the ballet world’s eye.

#BRBNutcracker is currently running at the Royal Albert Hall until 31 December 2019.