The Nutcracker by Burkicom: A sparkling spectacle in the spirit of Christmas magic
The Burkicom company, headed by choreographer Jana Burkiewiczová, has prepared a new performance for the whole family at Christmas time, simply called The Nutcracker. This title is inextricably linked with the winter season, especially its version in the style of classical ballet. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's famous music accompanies familiar images such as the waltz of the flowers or the dance of the snowflakes. However, the contemporary dance company Burkicom has decided to offer a different version in which there are no ballerinas or prince or Rat King as we know them from the original libretto.
The stage space of La Fabrika has been specially designed: the audience sits on two opposite sides of the stage, which has the shape of a round arena. The dominant element is a large chandelier with many arms with little lamps. The third side of the stage is completed by a place for the band. At the beginning, a charming girl (Barbora Bočková) comes among us, who is obviously preparing for a Christmas party. She would like to welcome the guests, but for now she is alone. With the help of lamps, she focuses the audience, full of excited children, on the individual musicians, who always play a short solo to introduce their instrument. They are hidden in different parts of the auditorium and naturally break down the divide between what is happening inside and outside the theatre space right from the start.
This tickles the interest of the audience, who shortly afterwards burst into delighted laughter when a girl is surprised on stage by a huge, colourful teddy bear. A dancer with a large mask on his head comes running up behind her like a toy come to life. Two more follow him and the imaginary Clara (the child heroine from the traditional Nutcracker) is swept away in a whirlwind of dancing led by the adorable and slightly clumsy teddy bears. The contradiction between the giant head and graceful body both amuses and inspires wonder at how agile such bears can be. Each is defined by a single rich color that contributes to the distinctive feel of the entire production. Hiding beneath their masks are some very skilled dancers (Jindřich Panský, Saša Veselý and Florian Garcia), so eventually they are unmasked so they can stretch their legs and dance with the animated doll (Natalija Metodijeva) who has just arrived at the party. Her partners play with her like a real toy, testing her body in the air and on the ground, and the doll is glad she doesn't have to dance alone.
After just a few moments it is clear that the idea of the Nutcracker will be more of an inspiration, even musically, as the musicians (Šimon Janák on tuba, Jan Keller on cello, Veronika Linhartová playing violin and singing, and Matěj Heinzl on clarinet) play the breezy, originally composed music of Jiří Konvalinka, using Tchaikovsky's musical motifs only a few times.
The emphasis on the playful mood and togetherness between the fair-haired hostess and her colourful guests runs like a shimmering thread through the entire performance. A great idea is the inclusion of small finger cymbals that tinkle and gradually play out a movement number, with the dancers and musicians throwing that imaginary tinkle between them. The whole company (augmented by one more girl, dancer and ukulele player Paulina Šmatláková) offers a juicy use of contemporary technique, whether working on the floor or using the flexibility of the body in strange positions and pairwise interactions. The individual images are briskly intertwined and will not leave the child viewer at ease for a moment. A certain calming down and greater concentration occurs during the solo by Jindřich Panský, suspended in the middle of a majestic chandelier and whirling in rapid revolutions while contorting his body into various positions.
Barbora Bočková is also very good with words, which she occasionally uses to comment on events or to confide in children about her fears, especially of mice. Together with her, however, we eventually find out that even mice are sometimes afraid and that they are not as terrible as Clara originally thought.
The holiday pageant culminates in the arrival of the dancers, who this time have large gymnastic balls strapped to their backs. They use them as their own bouncing surface, like a trampoline built into their bodies, so they can bounce off the ground or off each other, like fantastic bugs or snails. Set and costume design is by Marek Cpin, who does a stylish job, original and daring in colour and shape. The driving force behind this "Nutcracker", which could easily have been called something else, is its immense playfulness and imagination. The title is more of a springboard to sharing the joy of the Christmas atmosphere, playing games and having a good time.
Jana Burkiewiczová is an experienced director whose sensitive hand holds together all the components of the performance and her Christmas performance offers a great alternative to more traditional performances, which aim to tune children into the festive and magical atmosphere of the Christmas season. After the end of the performance at La Fabrika, many adults may long to have that beautiful teddy bear at home and dance with him by the light of the lamps all night long.
Written from the performance on January 7, 2024 at La Fabrika.
Concept, choreography, direction: Jana Burkiewiczová
Set design, Costumes: Marek Cpin
Dramaturgy: Martina Kinská
Music: Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky & Jiří Konvalinka
In the title role: Barbora Bočková
Performers: Natalia Metodijeva, Jindřich Panský, Paulína Šmatláková, Saša Veselý, Florian Garcia
Šimon Janák (tuba), Jan Keller (cello), Veronika Linhartová (violin, vocal) and Matĕj Heinzl (clarinet)
Premiere 28 December 2023, La Fabrika
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