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December 20, 2010

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Shanghai creates new 'Nutcracker' ballet

A new version of "The Nutcracker" by the Shanghai Ballet makes its premiere today at the Shanghai Grand Theater in a Christmas production designed by British choreographer Derek Deane.

The performance, which is said to be magical, extravagant and at times dark, will also be staged tomorrow and on January 28 and 29.

The production is the first of what the ballet expects to be a number of original productions as the theater takes a new creative direction. To date it has produced only one original work, and this "Nutcracker" is its second.

For the past 12 years the Shanghai Grand Theater has staged many versions of the Christmas favorite, with Tchaikovsky's famous score. Some ballet lovers said the productions lacked originality and excellence, according to Qian Shijin, artistic director of the theater.

The new version is a production by the Shanghai Ballet, the Shanghai Opera House Orchestra, Shanghai Grand Theater and choreographer Deane, former artistic director of the English National Ballet.

"When I was invited to create a new version of 'The Nutcracker,' my first thought was how I could make it different and a unique production for the Shanghai Ballet and Shanghai Grand Theater," Deane says.

The two-act ballet premiered in St Petersburg, Russia. It was given its premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 18, 1892. It was choreographed by Marius Petipa and LeAv Ivanov, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King."

The story begins with the little girl Clara given a toy nutcracker, shaped like a soldier as a Christmas present; it unfolds with her fantastic and magical dreams.

There are dozens of versions. Deane himself created a version in 1997 that included modern elements such as Michael Jackson's dancing, cocktails and mobile phones.

This time, it will be a traditional-style ballet with a changed story balance, Deane says.

Drosselmeyer, the godfather who gives Clara the nutcracker as a Christmas present, is neglected in most versions but made an important character in this story. "He is the one who unfolds the story and controls all the dreams like a circus-master," Deane says.

"And the dreams will not all be sweet and friendly, as in most versions. There will be horrible nightmares, such as rats biting people. Clara will experience joy, fear and difficulties when traveling around the world," he says. "When she returns to her family, she will think what the future will hold."

In addition to elaborate sets, such as the snow kingdom and different countries, the production will feature special effects, such as a flying sleigh and presents popping out of boxes.

Folk elements from different countries, including China, will be incorporated in Clara's dreams of foreign countries. Dean says he was aided by learning some traditional Chinese dances in Shanghai.

"My job is to create a magic world in which every member of the audience sits on the edge of their seat throughout the play and a world that may bring them back to the theater," says Deane.

Date: December 20-21, January 28-29, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 120-680 yuan

Tel: 6217-2426, 6217-3055


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