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Tag: pointe shoes

Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

(Karla Doorbar as Clara; photo: Roy Smiljanic)

Nothing says Christmas more to dancers than The Nutcracker. Companies all over the world look forward to putting on their own production, with it being the highlight of the year. The Nutcracker is to ballet what Jack and the Beanstalk is to pantos – a deep set tradition, with just as much magic and adventure, that many look forward to every year. If you aren’t too familiar with the story, read on and you’ll be a Nutcracker pro in no time!

Premiering in 1892, it was adapted from E.T.A Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lee Ivanov, with a score from the great Pyotr Tchaikovsky (who also composed music for Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake). Like most long standing productions, the details and the story differ slightly from place to place, but here’s the one that is most familiar.

(Karla Doorbar as Clara, Angela Paul as Clara’s Mother and Rory Mackay as Drosselmeyer; photo: Andrew Ross)

The scene is set on Christmas Eve in young girls family home, Clara, where the Christmas tree has been decorated and the children stand in awe of it. As the clock strikes 8pm, Drosselmeyer, Clara’s Godfather, local councilman and magician appears, with gifts for all the children. Clara particularly falls in love with a wooden Nutcracker carved in the shape of a solider. Fritz – Clara’s brother, breaks it, (typical sibling rivalry I’d say) and Clara is heartbroken.

(Rachael Gillespie as Clara curtesy of Northern Ballet)

During the night, Clara goes back downstairs to see the broken Nutcracker again (does she not know that Father Christmas only visits when all children are asleep?!) As she reaches for it, the clock strikes 12 midnight, mice flood the room, the tree begins to grow as does the Nutcracker! Suddenly Clara finds herself in the middle of a battle between gingerbread men soldiers led by the Nutcracker, and the army of mice led by the Mouse King.

(Jonathan Caguioa as the Nutcracker Doll and Yasuo Atsuji as King Rat with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet as Rats; photo: Andrew Ross)

The mice begin eating away at the gingerbread men (well they are super tasty). As it looks like the Mouse army are winning, Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King, giving the Nutcracker an opportunity to stab him (always so violent, does it need a disclaimer?) The mice retreat and the Nutcracker transforms into a Prince, who takes Clara through a pine forest towards his kingdom. Magical snowflakes dance all around them

(Jenna Roberts as the Snow Fairy with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Bill Cooper)

Act II sees the pair enter the magical Land of sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy (perhaps this is where Willy Wonka got his inspiration from?) To celebrate the victory and to thank Clara for her help, the Sugar Plum Fairy enlists the help from sweets all over the world, who each perform for the pair, including the famous dance of the Plum Fairy.

(Yaoqian Shang as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker; photo: Bill Copper)

As the celebrations draw to a close, Clara and the Nutcracker are lead to a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Everyone waves them off on their journey, much like wedding guests to newly wed couples, and this ends the production, although there are multiple alternative endings around.

(Company dancers photo curtesy of Northern Ballet)

With such a magical, enthralling story, enough sweets to send the kids climbing the walls on a sugar high, and a heroine little girls would dream to be, The Nutcracker is a wonderful way to introduce young children to the ballet world and the theatre, and would also make a wonderful family tradition to watch it year after year.

(Image courtesy of The Scottish Ballet company www.scottishballet.co.uk )

Disney must appreciate the magic of Nutcracker, as they are currently producing a live action adaptation – The Nutcracker and the Four Relms, due to be realised November 2018, just in time for the festive season (top marks Disney) which promises to be every bit as magical as the ballet, if not more. Definitely one to put on your calendars for next year! Watch the official trailer here https://www.facebook.com/DisneyUK/videos/654986464672105/

So, the little ones are tucked up in bed, while visions of sugar plums – hopefully not evil mice kings being stabbed to death – dance in their heads, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and supporting this blog, this is my dream coming to life and I’m hugely honoured and grateful to have you all share it with me. There’s only one thing left to say…….

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all goodnight!”

See you in the New Year,

Dance Niche

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Pointe Shoe Chronicles – importance of a professional fitting

Pointe Shoe Chronicles – importance of a professional fitting

Recently, I went for a pointe shoe fitting, as my last ones were well and truly dead – RIP beautiful babies! There were a few things I wanted to ask, question some finer points, and wondered wether these would ultimately effect the brand and model I’d be fitted with this time. Michelle, at That’s Entertainment in Liverpool looked at my previous record, then at my feet. She then thoroughly inspected my old pointe shoes, the dirt marks, where they had worn, where the shanks had softened, even feeling inside of the shoe. To an experienced fitter, worn shoes give away so many clues as to wear and tear, how they have been stored, and any issues that may have arisen. After trying on a couple of different options, I came away with the same model, which I’m thrilled about, as I loved them! But I came away realising just how important an expert fitting is. It’s not to be taken lightly. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

Foot types

A fitter will first look at your bare feet. They look at length on toes, length of  the foot as a whole, width, height of the arch, and compression amongst other things. Looking at this information, they can start to narrow down the brands and models of shoes which might be suitable.

Padding

There are a range of different offing options available to help protect your tootsies. Now is the time to tell your fitter what your preferences are, as she will want to start fitting and trying out different shoes with your padding on. No point finding a perfect shoe only to find out after it’s too tight with your padding in!

Brands & models

There are so many different manufacturers of pointe shoes, each with a huge selection of models. Each different model will have a different shank strength, profile height, vamp height, width, box shape etc. An expert fitter such as the guys down at Thats Entertainment,  have years upon years of knowledge. They can easily look at a foot and  match it with a maker and model without a second though.

Trial & Error

Even with this knowledge, everyone’s feet respond differently. A good fitter will access each shoe on the feet, how they look on the flat, and up en pointe. They will also ask a lot of questions about how they feel on. Too much pressure on toes? Pinching or squeezing? They will be able to analyse what the issue is, and try out a different shoe.

Usage

You will be asked how often and for how long you wear your pointe shoes. If it’s often, they may recommend a harder shoe so you get a longer wear out of them. If it’s more than twice a week, they may even recommend 2 pairs of shoes, to use on rotation to prevent them breaking down too early.

All in all, pointe shoes are a specialised piece of equipment, and the damage that an incorrect fitting can cause, not only to the foot itself, but your technique, is not worth the risk. It’s also a costly mistake buying your own and only when you go to wear them, discover that something isn’t right. I understand that a reliable fitter may not be hugely accessible all of the time, but I’d rather travel an hour to receive such a high level of expertise and after care, than risk injury or irreparable damage.

Your body is your medium for dance, look after it.

Alicia 💗

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