Choreographer Terence Kohler speaks about the enduring significance of
The Nutcracker for generations of children
As The Hong Kong Ballet’s dancers make their final preparations for this year’s run of The Nutcracker (20th – 29th December 2013, Hong Kong Cultural Centre), choreographer Terence Kohler was singing the praises of Hong Kong’s talented child dancers.
Just two days after arriving in Hong Kong from Germany and still suffering from jet lag, Terence Kohler had already remarked upon the outstanding performances of the children who have been recruited to perform in The Nutcracker. The Hong Kong Ballet held auditions on Sunday 15th September 2013 in the studio that is usually used for the dancers’ classes and 155 children, ranging in age from 7 to 13, applied to demonstrate their artistic excellence. In the end 58 children were cast as mice, family members and Clarchen, and they have been attending rehearsals since October. At the auditions, candidates showed excellent musicality, acting ability and charisma, as well as the confidence to dance on stage either alone or as part of a group. The choreographer explained that when he is casting dancers, both children and Company dancers, he keeps the audience’s viewpoint in mind; he wants them to “speak” to him, to connect with him. The Nutcracker showcases many different styles, especially in the divertissement of the 2nd Act, so there are plenty of opportunities for the dancers to really express themselves in a variety of ways. Kohler explains, “Dancers who manage to “say” something to the audience succeed in breaking through the imaginary wall between stage and auditorium, and they succeed in affecting the audience on an emotional level.”
Speaking about his decision to cast so many children in the show, Terence Kohler said “The story of The Nutcracker focuses on the journey that Clara and Fritz take over Christmas Eve so it’s only natural that the cast should feature children too. Throughout my childhood I performed in The Nutcracker with a youth ballet company in Sydney. Originally I was a mouse, then a child, then a party guest and finally I moved on to perform the role of the Prince! So almost all of my early Christmases were on stage. Now it’s my turn to give opportunities to aspiring ballet dancers – boys and girls. I hope that this ballet will continue to be an “entrypoint” for children who go on to have professional ballet careers.”
Kohler describes The Nutcracker as a “magical journey” – the Stahlbaum children Clara and Fritz embark on a great adventure, and they take the audience with them. The children face many challenges along the way, encountering difficulties and even failure, but they keep trying and thanks to their perseverance order is restored and Christmas is saved. Kohler explains “Their journey is very much a metaphor for the transformation everyone goes through as they grow up – from innocence to experience. What better time to share such a story than at Christmas time?”
The Nutcracker 2013
The Nutcracker, a festive favourite for time immemorial, has been re-imagined for the 21st century by celebrated Australian Choreographer Terence Kohler in collaboration with Australian dramaturge Clair Sauran, Spanish set & costume designer Jordi Roig and Spanish lighting designer David Bofarull.
Terence and his creative team drew inspiration from E.T.A. Hoffman’s original tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and created a touching story about growing up and the sacrifices we make for those we love: The story begins as night falls on Christmas Eve, and Uncle Drosselmeyer settles down with Clara and Fritz to tell them a bedtime story. “Once upon a time, The Nutcracker and Ballerina ruled peacefully over their Kingdom…” he begins, and so the mythical tale comes to life. Clara and Fritz learn to recognise the value of loyalty, friendship and determination as they embark on an adventure to rescue the Nutcracker and the Ballerina from the clutches of the evil Rat King. Through their charming naivety and creative imagination, the children restore normality to a surreal world.
The festive production will be accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s magical score, performed live by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta under the baton of British conductor Martin Yates. The production will be staged at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre from 20th – 29th December 2013.
About The Hong Kong Ballet
One of the premier classical ballet companies in Asia, The Hong Kong Ballet is becoming internationally recognised as a world-class institution that represents Hong Kong’s unique character. November 2013 marks the 35th anniversary of The Hong Kong Ballet, a Company that has evolved into a vibrant performing arts organisation with accomplished dancers, a strong repertoire, and sparkling, technically challenging productions.
The Company’s artistic team is led by Artistic Director Madeleine Onne, with over 40 dancers originating from all over the world. The Company performs a repertoire that combines classical masterpieces and acclaimed contemporary works from the 19th to 21st centuries, as well as new commissions.
Since 1997, The Hong Kong Ballet has continued to raise its international profile with more than 30 tours. An integral part of the Company’s activities is its extensive education and community outreach programme, which brings the art of ballet to students as well as to the wider community of Hong Kong.