★★★☆☆ The Nutcracker | Sheffield Lyceum

Formed in 1996, the St Petersberg Classic Ballet brings the classic ballet, The Nutcracker, to life with this traditional presentation. The ballet, set to the instantly recognisable score of Tchaikovsky, tells the tale of Clara as she is whisked off to a magical land by a nutcracker prince to celebrate the defeat of the Rat King.

If you want to extend your Christmas by seeing this traditional festive treat, then this production is very much rooted in the archetypal school of ballet, with tutu’s and tights aplenty; a static set of rather plain backdrops with a virtually non-existent use of props and a dance space which allowed for an impressively performed display of the type of technically competent dancing you would expect from a Russian ballet company.

As a whole, the company’s performance was enjoyable and well executed. There were some aspects which were handled very well, including the snowflake scene at the conclusion of the first act, with a very full stage of dancers in a flurry of mesmerising rhythmic and tightly controlled waves of movement, an energetic Dimitriy Popov standing out as The Mouse King and a tremendously hypnotic performance by Kana Fujise as the Eastern Dancer, swathed in an almost dreamlike vision of swirling, vivid orange robes.

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There were some creative choices which didn’t sit easily, primarily the addition of four male dancers to the pas de deux between the Prince and Clara, which seemed to detract from the characters relationship; and the very limited set didn’t assist in setting the scene, especially during the second act. The show did lack some of the narrative flair that I have seen in other productions of this ballet, and at times the emotions of the characters did not come across subtly, primarily due to the fixed smiles of the dancers who appeared so focussed on their dancing that the conveyance of the characters personalities seemed to be forgotten.

Quibbles aside, the show provided a pleasant evening at the theatre. Undemanding, enjoyable, relaxing and easy to watch. There was nothing innovative in this production which brought anything new, dynamic or particularly different to the ballet itself;  but if you are seeking a very traditionally performed, accessible ballet in the classic style, then the St Petersburg Classic Ballet could well be just what you are looking for.

The company is performing The Nutcracker at Sheffield Lyceum until the 13th January 2017 (see www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk for details) before visiting a number of venues around the country with their trio of ballet’s, The Nutcracker, Giselle and Swan Lake, until the end of February 2018. Visit www.pmbpresentations.com for details.