Thursday, 20 December 2007

The Nutcracker: An Evolving Tradition, a Continuing Pleasure

Late afternoon in the concourse of Place des Arts in downtown Montreal. For the moment there is a lull in the foot traffic headed toward the Métro, the box office, the shops. Two televisions are showing videos of the Grands Ballets canadiens’ production of The Nutcracker, with the King of Candy cavorting around as Clara and her prince arrive in the Land of Snow. Tchaikovsky’s music rollicks over the echoing feet and, from the outside, the roar of snow removing equipment on St. Catherine Street.

Two small girls stand in front of the TVs, one watching each. Next to them are their mothers, holding extra hats and gloves as well as shopping bags. All four are entranced by the music, the colour and the movement. Visions of—well, if not sugarplums, then princes and beautiful dresses and little girls whom everyone loves—dance in their heads.

The GBC’s Nutcracker is a family tradition for us. Lee and I went even before we had kids, and we took Elin for the first time when she was four. Lukas joined us when he reached the same age: he was delighted by the cannon blast when the mice and the toy soldiers fought, but then fell asleep. Both of them tried out to be enfants de la fête during their ballet years: Elin got a call-back and Lukas, who might have been chosen, decided at 8 that he wanted to concentrate on his hockey.

This year the two girls who share the role of Clara symbolize the new Quebec. One, 11 year old Mariya Kyrychenko, was born in Ukraine and only came to Montreal when she was 6. The other, Eden Solomon who is also 11, is the offspring of a Canadian mother and an Eritrean father. Quite fitting in this time when Quebec is doing some navel gazing through a commission on “reasonable accommodation” in light of Quebec’s changing demographics.

This Sunday afternoon we'll all be at the Nutcracker, the kids' significant others included. It will start the holidays officially, and then, just to do something different, we’ll go out for a Vietnamese and Chinese supper in Chinatown which is just a few blocks away. No special efforts at reasonable accommodation required to enjoy such an abundance of good things.

Publicity photo of Callye Robinson by John Hall
Taken from the GBC's website with thanks.

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