“The Gift” is Ballet Victoria’s interpretation of the classic ballet, The Nutcracker.
Ballet Victoria’s artistic and executive director Paul Destrooper explains that each year, the company likes to vary the performance.
“We have a whole set of new characters. We have angels this year, for example, which we’ve never had before, and they’re just going to melt everyone’s heart, I know that.”
Destrooper has changed the plot slightly too.
“We’ve done away with all of the war between all the Nutcrackers and the soldiers and the mice. And we’ve taken out the cutting tails off and maiming people etc, so no one gets hurt.”
“I think for Ballet Victoria this is a perfect version” says dancer Tymin Keown. “It’s a little bit smaller, because we are a smaller company, but still has the great story, the great pieces of movement. It’s amazing! I love this version!”
The performance is accompanied by the Victoria Symphony.
“We’re thrilled about that,” says Destrooper. “Having that beautiful addition of live music is tremendous for us.”
Joey Pietraroia, associate conductor for the Victoria Symphony, explains that performing with the ballet presents unique challenges.
“If we’re performing [The Nutcracker] as a concert piece, then we can take the tempos we want, we can shape it the way we want in terms of phrasing. When you’re dealing with a ballet, they have a choreography, and you have to fit the tempos to the choreography.”
And that means Pietraroia must pay special attention.
“I watch when I know that it’s a very important section where we do have to be synchronized, and I make sure I can see where their feet are, and how they’re pacing [the dance].”
Principal dancer Andrea Bayne adds that performing with the symphony is an exciting challenge. “You do have to stay on top of it, but you dance better because the music kinda comes through you.”
It’s especially exciting for the youngest performers to be accompanied by the Victoria Symphony.
“It takes years and years to actually dance on stage with a professional symphony,” says Bayne, “and here they are at six or seven years old, and they’re dancing on stage at the Royal Theatre with the symphony! Getting to give that opportunity to local kids is so huge!”
Destrooper hopes The Gift will appeal to all ages.
“It’s very accessible for people who love ballet, and for people who know nothing about ballet, because it’s highly entertaining. It’s fun, and it’s got great energy.”
And for many, this ballet is a holiday tradition.
“I think people enjoy tradition,” says Destrooper. “You have some people that go to Christmas mass for example, and there’s other people that go to The Nutcracker. Or maybe it’s the same people” he adds with a smile.