Goh Ballet's The Nutcracker is family fun

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A Goh Ballet production. At the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Thursday, December 15. Continues until December 18

The gleaming ornament that is Goh Ballet’s Nutcracker has not lost any of its sheen in the last couple years. The new version of the classic that the company launched in 2009 still stands up against any touring productions—but its appeals are very different from what you’ll find elsewhere.

I’m going to go out on a Christmas-tree limb here and say this is one of the most child-friendly renditions of The Nutcracker out there. This show rides along at such a high speed that there are no lulls—not even in the usually endless opening party scene. And copious goodies await along the way: one minute, dozens of tiny gymnasts come flipping and cartwheeling out of the gigantic skirts of towering drag star Christopher Hunte as Mere Gigogne; at others, a life-sized gingerbread man gets his arm tugged off and mice battle by hurling big wedges of Swiss cheese. Throughout, a real magician (the charismatic Damien Carriere, as Drosselmeyer) makes entire characters appear and disappear before your eyes. The production design is sumptuous, too, morphing easily from the multiproscenium storybook Stahlbaum-home scene to the winter wonderland of the dancing Snowflakes to the candy-coloured kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s second act. But the most appealing aspect for the kids in the audience remains the fact that there are people their own age—uncountable hordes of them—performing on-stage.

The magic of Anna-Marie Holmes’s choreography is that it can accommodate an elementary school’s worth of those kids with such ease and humour. She takes every opportunity she can to use the Goh’s legions of students to her advantage: a diminutive Little Mouse jumps giddily out between the Mouse King’s legs during the battle scene, and one of the tiny gymnasts refuses to run back under Mere Gignogne’s voluminous skirts.

And yet ballet aficionados can also get their fix here and there. Amid the lesser-known stars, a standout is Janica Grenier’s Snow Queen, whose extensions are impossibly elastic, and her partner, Vlademir Pereira, pulls off a dizzying array of jumps. As for the crowd pleasers of the night, top honours go to the low-kicking Russian dancers (Dustin Carnie, Stanislav Galimkhanov, and Yuta Kawakami).

The evening’s big names, Michele Wiles and Cory Stearns of the American Ballet Theatre, are quite simply the real deal. Wiles’s Sugar Plum Fairy imbues everything with emotion, building to a sort of ecstasy in her duet with the Prince (Stearns). Both she and Stearns make the most demanding moves look effortless; watch his athletic jumps and turns, a subtly expressive combination of power and control.

As usual, the Vancouver Opera Orchestra players are on their game, bringing a crispness and sleigh-ride-swift pace to the production. Just listen to the glimmering harp notes and the crescendoing horns, strings, and crashing percussion in the snow scene.

But mostly this show is about fun, as much for the artists involved as for the audience. Yes, the logistical nightmare of wrangling more than 200 performers is serious business—ever tried to get just one kid dressed and out the door?—but the trick of the Goh’s Nutcracker is that it never shows.

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Disappointed
I saw this tonight and I have to say, I was totally disappointed. None of the performances were as impressive as they were from the show two years ago. It felt like I was watching a bunch of children from a dance school and not professional dancers. Totally disappointing in every sense.
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Rating: +1
Tasha
I took my family on opening night and from the moment the curtain went up, we felt like we were a part of something very special. The production was filled with endearing surprises from begining to end, with each performer bringing the ballet to life. We were transported onto a magical journey and did not want the evening to be over! I completely agree with Ms Janet Smith's review and would also like to add that the calibre of the dancers far surpass any other productions of the Nutcracker that I have seen in Vancouver. We tried to get tickets for Sunday matinee but it is sold out. Bravo to everyone involved.
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Rating: 0
Bravo
My friends and I saw the show on Friday evening and were blown away by the dancers and the production in every aspect. The kids in the production were a stand out as were the guests from ABT. Thanks for such a great show!
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Rating: -7
Kate Mundy
This show is amazing. I have seen it every year for the past three years and it keeps getting better and better. I don't know what "disappointed" is talking about, 2011 was the best year so far! Amazing talent and energy. Thank you to the Goh's for bringing the talents of our city to the stage in this wonderful production! A must-see!
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Rating: +12
$author
Not sure which nutcracker you watched but I was extremely pleased with the production. Vancouver can be completely satisfied and so proud of their community of dancers from 6year olds to adults. All of the performers were exquisite. This production is ours, homegrown from Anna Marie to the mice. It truly is precious to the city and I can only hope as a ballet aficionado that has attended ballets in New York, and Europe that we see further and continued support from the City. Can't wait to see what might be next?

Congratulations to you Vancouver!!
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Rating: +8
captured by the beauty and magic of a Christmas tradition
For the past three years, my family and I have been going to the Goh Nutcracker and every year we come out mesmerized. Although Goh Ballet is a school the caliber of dancing presented out ranks many other companies. This year was no exception. We went on opening night and when entering the lobby of the Center there was a family from the party scene greeting guests and the beautiful voices of the choir singers filled the air. The performance was spectacular with gorgeous sets and costumes. As well as young dancers that were impeccably well rehearsed and cute as can be. The two pas de deux's were definitely the highlight of the performance. The snow scene and sugar plum showed the true essences
of classical ballet, full of grace and elegance. The Nutcracker is not to be missed. Every year it is one of the Christmas family traditions we most look forward too.
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Rating: -2
xmas
This show is amazing !!!! From the moment it starts till the very end it is simply magical . You have dancers from age 6- adult and everyone of them tells a story through there dancing and acting .I felt that the dancers had great technique and were in character throughout the ballet . This production holds both humor and elegance as you shift from the crazy maid to the beautiful snow scene . I would recommend this ballet to anyone and everyone of all ages . It is simply breathtaking and defiantly puts you in the Christmas spirit .
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Rating: -3
Magical
An unforgettable production. Thank you Goh Ballet!
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Rating: -9
lpoollady
"Disappointed" must have seen a different show from the rest of us! It was a truly amazing performance by a truly amazing group of dancers. I have seen all the shows at the Q.E. for the past few years and frankly have been a lot more disappointed with them than I was with the Goh Ballet!

Breathtaking and very talented performances by everybody (specially the little ones!)
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Rating: +8
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