The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, and it would inspire one of the most beloved ballets in our classical repertoire.The Nutcrackercaptures the spirit of Christmas like no other. We follow the story of a girl who befriends a nutcracker doll that comes to life on Christmas eve. Together, they battle against the Mouse King, travel through the land of snow into the Kingdom of Sweets.
Yasmine Naghdi as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
In Sir Peter Wright’s production, one The Royal Ballet has performed for over thirty-five years, Clara and her brother are found in the midst of a jolly Christmas party, overwhelmed by all the adornments, guests, presents, much dancing and, of course, the presence of Drosselmeier. Although it is a bright and joyful act, there are moments in it that I find quite unsettling. Tchaikovsky's music seems to fill the scene with suspense. What could be so mysterious about a godfather and his magic tricks?
When the clock strikes midnight and Clara finds herself alone, strange figures appear to haunt her. The house is transformed to stage a fierce battle amongst soldiers and mice. It is all very frightening for a young girl, but this is not even half of the story. In the book, the poor Nutcracker has to defeat a seven-headed Mouse King!
Having finally read Hoffmann’s tale, I understood why there is an ominous side to the ballet. Like most original fairy tales, it has a dark side to it. But gladly for the audience, especially young ones, Act II is all about sparkles and fun, with amazing diverts and a beautiful pas de deux. All ends well! Was it just a dream?! Even Hoffmann leaves us wondering...
Hans Peter and Clara © Andrej Uspenski.
I had just turned thirteen. It was a year marked by great personal development, when I had begun to show real signs of a promising future in dance. I was to play my very first Clara in mum's dance school show, an adaptation called The Christmas Dream.
From that very first encounter and throughout my professional career, Clara would continue to fill me with joy and great sense of achievement. It was the first big role I did with Northern Ballet, my first company, and a few years later with The Royal Ballet.
With Northern Ballet, I also played the role of Louise, a sister who becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act II. It was a time of much learning and growth, one I will cherish forever.
Being Clara for the first time.
Every time I perform Clara, it feels a little different. I remember how amazing it was to be dancing the role with Northern Ballet, and the indescribable emotion I felt on the Royal Opera House stage. My heart is filled with sweet memories, but looking at pictures of when I was just a young girl, my heart fills with a nostalgia I can't quite explain. It was pure excitement. I couldn't contain myself with happiness and it felt like nothing could ever go wrong. I was simply part of the magic.
For me, dancing has always been about love, not letting things get in the way of how good it makes you feel or how happy it makes others. I realise that I still hold on to that naiveté, the excitement of experiencing things for the very first time. I look for that genuine feeling of happiness when I'm dancing. Instead of trying to be or act like my idols, the inspiration for Clara comes from my very essence and the child within me.