En Pointe 20 - Dec 26

Dec 21 2020 | Posted in Blog, Spotlight, En Pointe

The Nutcracker Suite Brings Sugarplum Magic Home for the Holidays

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet has added a dash of sugarplum magic to the holidays for decades with its iconic interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s famous tale of The Nutcracker. For nearly half a century, the RWB has performed a version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker on Winnipeg stages every December. For many, it has become a beloved family tradition, one without which the holidays are incomplete. Bearing this responsibility in mind, the RWB found a way to let audiences take a version of the Nutcracker home.

Under the current public health guidelines, large-scale gatherings such as those required by a live performance have been rendered impossible. There was no way for the RWB to bring Nutcracker to the stage this holiday season, but thanks to the hard work from RWB Company dancers, Ballet Masters, and the RWB’s diligent production team, a new vision of sugarplums began to dance in our minds: The Nutcracker Suite.

Premiering on December 23rd, RWB’s The Nutcracker Suite offers audiences a chance to experience a reimagined version of the RWB’s famed Nutcracker, away from the stage, from the safety and comfort of their living room. With two more performances still to come, at 4pm on December 26th and 2pm on December 27th, RWB’s The Nutcracker Suite has many of the familiar scenes and characters audiences adore, along with a few new twists for good measure.

The story in The Nutcracker Suite picks up at the same time and in the same place as Nutcracker. It tells the story of young Clara, who receives a special nutcracker from her Godfather Drosselmeier, only to have it spring to life to defend her when she is attacked by the Mouse King and his mice. If it sounds like the story of Nutcracker to you, that’s by design, says Jaime Vargas, one of the Ballet Masters with the RWB.

“We are not able to do the whole story as it was,” says Jaime, “but we are able to follow a story within it. So, instead of trying to recreate what was there before, we were able to use the dancers we have to create something different, something new.”

Jaime is referring to the brand-new sequences and choreography created for The Nutcracker Suite, which takes the traditional choreography created by Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon in an inspired new direction. Several dancers in the company stepped up to remix the choreography, each bringing their own distinct personality to the classic ballet that audiences have adored for twenty years.

Choreographic elements aren’t the only new additions to the show, which also features new original scenes made for The Nutcracker Suite. This is the first time the RWB has ever used a streaming platform to bring one of its shows to the digital stage, and that has created new opportunities for the ballet company to express its creative vision.

“Usually, [when performing live] you have one person performing one role, but because this is being filmed, we were able to have different dancers perform the same role,” says Jaime. “This gave us the flexibility to do more with The Nutcracker Suite, and it turned out really, really nice.”

Dancers in the RWB Company dancers are separated into cohorts. Each cohort features a pair of dancers from the same household bubble, who were able to safely rehearse and perform in proximity required for the numerous pas de deux sequences throughout the show’s runtime.

Another change brought on by the new distribution method, tickets are now purchased per household, which means families can share in the magic together, without having to pay for individual tickets. Although the RWB has no plans to ever replace live ballet with strictly video offerings, making the performances available online has opened it up to new audiences. Have you ever wanted to share one of the RWB’s performances with your sibling in Ontario, or with your friend in Alberta? It’s now possible for the first time with The Nutcracker Suite. At the time of publication, tickets are still available for The Nutcracker Suite on December 26th and 27th through the RWB’s website. Click here to see more information on how to purchase tickets and what to expect for the show. Don’t miss your chance to see The Nutcracker Suite and experience the sugarplum magic that so many have made a part of their holidays.

Green Room: RWB Dancers Share Their Holiday Memories

Welcome to Green Room, your chance to get to know the RWB Company dancers personalities, experiences, and everything else that makes them unique. Check back every month for new, fun, and surprising looks into the lives of our dancers. This month, En Pointe asked the dancers to share with us the holiday traditions and memories that they hold most dearly. Enjoy!

“My favourite holiday memory is waking up super early with my younger brother and checking if Santa had come! We would run downstairs to see if he ate the cookies we left for him, and if he took the carrots for his reindeer. He would always leave a note saying thank you!” – Emilie Lewis

“Our typical Nutcracker schedule keeps me away from home on Christmas, however, my family usually finds a time that we can all be home to celebrate the holiday; we’ve even celebrated in mid-October once. What I love is that it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the formula is always the same: We put on our favorite Christmas tape (that’s right, a cassette tape) and cook a meal together. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to cross the border this year, but despite the circumstances this Christmas, I know next year my sister will be directing us all in the kitchen while we enjoy the smooth sounds of Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald.” – Ryan Vetter

“Every December for as long as I can remember, my family would make “Chelsey Buns” while listening to “John Denver and The Muppets - Christmas Together” album. We would give the buns out as gifts to family and friends, and we kept a couple for us to have for breakfast on Christmas morning and New Year’s Day!” – Katie Bonnell

“My favourite holiday family tradition has always been the matching PJ’s we get on Christmas Eve, followed by hot cocoa while we watch the Polar Express!” – Brooke Thomas

“Back when I lived in Edmonton, my parents, sister, and I would go out for dinner and a movie every Christmas Eve. In recent years, this meant going to see the latest episode of Star Wars! I’ll always hold this little holiday tradition near to my heart.” – Joshua Hidson

“One tradition my family has is we always sit down and make some homemade fudge, and of course it wouldn’t be the holidays if we didn’t watch It’s a Wonderful Life.” – Parker Long

“Nutcracker has always been a huge part of my family’s holiday season. Every year, my mom and I have this running joke about our “shrine” to Nutcracker. She has a Christmas-themed photo of all my roles in Nutcracker through the years, alongside her growing collection of actual nutcrackers. No matter how far away I am from my family during the holidays, she always makes sure the Nutcracker shrine is set up in time for performances. This way I feel assured the performances will go well.” – Jenna Burns

“A holiday tradition in my family is a gift exchange where every family member randomly draws another family member to give a present to on December 31st. The one rule: it has to be a self-made gift.” – Peter Lancksweerdt

“My favourite holiday tradition is decorating with my family. We always put on White Christmas and drink eggnog together. I look forward to it every year!” – Amanda Solheim

“Every Christmas, my grandmother brings over some frozen tourtières she made in advance and we heat them up for our annual family gatherings. I’ve always loved how amazing the kitchen smells after we take them out of the oven. Although we won’t be having any large family gatherings this year, we will certainly still enjoy tourtières within our households.” – Michel Lavoie

“My favourite holiday memory is having snowball fights, sledding and making snowmen at our grandparents house in Vermont with my siblings and cousins.” – Liam Saito

“One tradition my family does is this. Every year we open our presents from my dad’s family on Christmas Eve. My dad is from Australia so for them our Christmas Eve is their Christmas Day.” – Tymin Keown

An Open Letter by RWB Company Dancer Jaimi Deleau: Make a Difference with Your Donation This Season

My name is Jaimi Deleau and I am a Corps de Ballet member with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Today, I am writing to you and our wonderful community of patrons to ask you to make a donation to the RWB this holiday season.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, I began dancing at the age of three after seeing Ballet in the Park for the first time with my grandparents. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the beautiful ballerinas and I danced along with the Company in front of the stage at Assiniboine Park. Watching me spin and twirl along to the music, my grandparents knew that I had to dance, so they told my mom and she immediately enrolled me in ballet classes.

I was eight when I went to my first audition at the RWB and I was selected to be a Mouse in the Nutcracker– to say the least, it was a dream come true! What transfixed me though, was watching Tara Birtwhistle, now our Associate Artistic Director, dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She was beautiful. The following year, I was selected to dance in the Nutcracker once again, as a Party Girl. Little did I know, rehearsing in the RWB studios with the Company that winter would be the second of many in the years to come.

I was accepted into the RWB School’s Professional Division when I was ten and spent the next nine years training and developing as a dancer. During my time as a student, whether I had a role in Nutcracker or not, I attended the show with my mom and grandma every Christmas, because like many Winnipeggers, it was a treasured holiday family tradition.

After graduating from the Professional Division, I trained for an additional two years in the RWB School’s Aspirant program. As an Aspirant, I continued to add more roles to my Nutcracker repertoire like the Waltz of the Flowers, the Mouse King Army, and the Snowflakes, before joining the Company as an Apprentice in 2014 and then Corps de Ballet in 2015.

For the last four seasons, I’ve have danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy – a role that I had only dreamt about since watching Tara when I was a little girl. And now, many years later, after becoming a professional dancer just like Tara, it remains my favourite role in Nutcracker and is every bit as magical to dance each year as it was the first time!

This year will be the first year I will not be dancing in or attending Nutcracker with my mom and grandma at the Centennial Concert Hall in twenty-one years. Most of all, I am going to miss dancing for you and bringing your family the joy and holiday magic that Nutcracker has always brought mine any many other Winnipeg families.

This holiday season, if the RWB and Nutcracker have been a special part of your family traditions like they have been in mine, I invite you to make your year-end tax-deductible gift to the RWB today. Your gift will help the RWB keep treasured classics like Nutcracker as bright and vivid as you remember so that it can continue to be shared with Winnipeg families for many years to come.

If you can and are able, please consider making a donation to the RWB this holiday season.

Sincerely,

Jaimi Deleau