Story by Sandra Williams-Hervé
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Canadian ballerina Lorna Geddes doesn’t like to hear Tchaikovsky while she’s at the grocery store. For her, overexposure to The Nutcracker can make it sound like nails being scratched against a chalkboard. On the other hand, when she’s onstage, hearing the classic melody that consists of a robust chamber orchestra of violins, violas, cello, flute, oboe and triangle is like diving into a favourite bowl of comfort food.
Throughout her illustrious career, which dates to 1959, Geddes has performed many roles in the perennial crowd pleaser. “I was a child, but I was also a reindeer, a snowflake, a flower — the whole corps de ballet,” she recalls.
On the day we speak, the National Ballet of Canada is on the move. Stagehands and dancers are in the throes of final rehearsals as they prepare to relocate to their second home, The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto. Despite the commotion and discombobulating frenzy that can accompany a company move, Lorna has the enthusiasm of the Energizer Bunny. It’s needed when you’re sharing the stage with 60 children, most of them prima ballerinas-in-training from Canada’s esteemed National Ballet School. Geddes will be reprising her role of Baba, nanny to the ballet’s disagreeing siblings Marie and Misha. The role has her beaming with holiday cheer. “Although, I have been playing basically the same part for 12 years, I love it. And I’m not board with it.”
The Nutcracker Brightens Up Toronto
The tale has become a quintessential part of the holiday season in Canada’s largest city. It is about a young girl who has a dream about Christmas and goes on a magical journey to a land of candy and meets a host of characters, including a prince, a princess and the Sugar Plum Fairy. There is so much to be enchanted by. From start to finish the ballet is visually stunning. Be it the beautiful, highly detailed costumes, or the multi-faceted sets and the flawless performances, the evening you spent at the ballet will be etched in your memory for years to come. Geddes has performed in three versions of The Nutcracker; however, James Kudelka’s 1995 take on the holiday classic, in her opinion, is the best of all.
Kudelka made a conscious decision to move away from the traditional path of staging the ballet in a posh Victorian mansion or in Germany. Instead he chose to tell the tale from a 19th-century Russian farm. His directorial choice led to whole new approach to costuming, set design and plotline. Usually, the story is about a girl’s adventure, but Kudelka flexed his director’s muscle and challenged status quo by adding a boy to the classic tale. And, continuing with the Russian theme are aspects from the circus, which paves the way for an extraordinary cast of characters, such as a life-like horse played by two male dancers.
The volley of duelling rodents and toy soldiers, whirl of glistening snowflakes underscored by Tchaikovsky’s timeless music will be a special treat for both adults and children.
More about the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Location: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West (at University Avenue)
Dates: December 19, 2012 – January 5, 2013
Box office: 416 345 9595; out of town 1-866-345-9595