Dancer Nikoleta Stehlíková.
photo: Courtesy Slovak National Ballet
By: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performed by: The Slovak National Ballet
Address: Hviezdoslavovo Nám. 1
Tel: 07-54 43 30 83, 54 43 00 69
Tickets: From 20 to 40 Sk
Performances: Saturday, January 27 at 11:00; watch for listings in February
It's just before 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 15, and the Slovak National Theatre is a-swarm with children waiting for the legendary Nutcracker performance to begin. Dressed in their best clothes, shoes polished and eyes glittering with excitement, the young ballet-goers are about to witness a beautiful rendition of a classic fairytale.
Tchaikovsky's imaginative ballet takes us back to a children's realm of dream and fantasy. The show begins with little Máša (danced by 14 year-old Veronika Szabová) falling asleep and dreaming that one of her Christmas gifts, a nutcracker, defeats the king of mice in a battle. The humble nutcracker is suddenly transformed into a prince who will take Máša with him on wonderful adventures in strange lands.
In the dream, a suddenly older Máša (danced in alternate performances by the charismatic Lejla Alpijeva and Nikoleta Stehlíková) delivers a glittery and playful performance together with the nutcracker, performed by Jozef Dolinský. Together they dance through snow flakes, mountains and magical seas.
In the story, Herr Drosselmeyer is the generous uncle who showers Máša and her child companions with presents. One of the toys Máša receives is a little African doll, who comes to life in a memorable solo danced by Zdeno Galaba.
Having traversed the mysterious sea, Máša and her Nutcracker meet ambassadors from foreign lands; dancers in Slavic costumes are there to greet them, along with Chinese, Spanish and other folk performers. This scene contained one of the few disappointments of the performance - the work of the Spanish dancers (Andrej Milo and Ingrid Murčeková) lacked a convincing latin spark and temperament. Apart from that, however, the whole scene was beautifully performed, and certainly did not dim the enthusiasm of the children in the audience.
The ballet is approximately two hours in length, and contains a 20 minute break just before the heroine and the hero set out over the magic seas. Judging from the reactions of the audience, the performance is just short enough that the fickle attention of the children is held throughout.
Beyond such prosaic concerns, the story is a celebration of the power of imagination, which can take us to unknown places and enrich our lives. Instead of taking their children to Disneyland or putting them in front of the television, all parents should bring them to see this colourful, lively fairytale which will not only keep them quiet for an hour or two, but will also paint pictures and dreams in their minds for a long time to come.