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Reworking a Holiday Favourite

Xing Dance Theatre’s The Nutcracker Doll By Sarah Lochhead
  • Kristel Jang, Lucas Ferrari, Christy Tsai and Miruna Soiu in Xing Bang Fu’s The Nutcracker Doll / Photo courtesy of Xing Dance Theatre
  • Simon Sylvain Lalonde and Järvi Raudsepp in Xing Bang Fu’s The Nutcracker Doll / Photo courtesy of Xing Dance Theatre

In 2016, in celebration of Xing Dance Theatre’s thirtieth anniversary and an eight-year sabbatical from their previous production of The Nutcracker, choreographer Xing Bang Fu and French Canadian professional ballet dancer Simon Sylvain Lalonde presented a new interpretation of the classic holiday tale with the intention of exploring the boundaries of gender and identity entitled The Nutcracker Doll. This year’s production of the work focuses on the central theme of parenting, exploring how a parent can guide a child to confront personal challenges and realize their own ways to express themselves.

Last year, the production tackled gendered stereotyping and the stand out elements were the choreography, the visceral performances and the clever use of sets. The Snow Princess, danced by Kristel Jang on pointe, with Snowflakes in white dresses with long flowing sleeves created the stunning visual effect of falling and swirling snow. Sze-Yang Ade-Lam’s interpretation of An Evil Spirit was danced with incredible power.

In retrospect, the Land of Sweets read as various degrees of expressions of gender. Naishi Wang’s solo in the Arabian section, for example, seemed to explore transformation. The movement impulses followed a singular point of energy moving through the body articulating in waves of undulation with an introspective visual focus. The Grand Pas with Järvi Raundsepp as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Simon Sylvain Lalonde as the Prince contained balanced partnering, with equal strength in both the male and female roles. This year the Sugar Plum Fairy will be performed by Christy Tsai.

The clever use of uniformly white boxes, arranged to create the various backdrops and set pieces, was simple and effective. Their reconfiguring, breaking down and rebuilding were actions that could be interpreted as a metaphor for Clara’s identity and self-discovery.

Finally, it sounds like this year’s iteration builds on the relationship between Clara and her father and how the role of parent and child is developed in the exploration of this expanded theme. Overall the 2016 production was an ambitious, valiant first iteration that succeeded in interpreting something so familiar anew. It takes courage to tackle a classic and present a more contemporary expression rooted in issues of today rather than resting on the laurels of holiday nostalgia. 

Xing Dance Theatre’s The Nutcracker Doll runs December 20 through 23 at Xing Dance Studio Theatre in Toronto.

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Learn more >> xingdance.com

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