Bourne’s ‘Nutcracker!’ due here in MayBallet is not all about tutus and toe shoes, at least not when it’s reborn with Matthew Bourne’s magic touch. In this British choreographer’s daring productions, performers disco dance to Tchaikovsky, and smoke cigarettes on stage.
In his most successful interpretation, of “Swan Lake,” Bourne broke with tradition by featuring half-naked, barefoot and masculine male dancers as swans in a park in London. No traditional characters, like Siegfried the prince or Odette the princess-turned-swan. This contemporary twist to the classic created a strange, powerful new “Swan Lake,” more accurately called a dance musical than a ballet performance.
After their Korean debut last year, Bourne and his New Adventures Dance Company are coming back with “Nutcracker!” in May.
If you wait until late April to start thinking about going to the performance, it may be too late. With sales having already started earlier this month, tickets are selling fast, with few A-1 seats available for the opening and closing weekends.
Last year’s “Swan Lake” in Seoul, followed by performances in Tokyo, was a smash hit, with all 17,000 tickets sold. Korean audiences last year also had to compete with Japanese ticketbuyers, shut out of the Tokyo performances, who flew to Seoul. According to LG Arts Center, which hosted “Swan Lake” (and will host “Nutcracker!”), more than 1,000 of the tickets were sold to Japanese patrons.
Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker,” a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl, Clara, and her dream adventures with a nutcracker-turned-prince, has long stimulated choreographers. Bourne uses his rich imagination to conjure up a stage extravaganza to make his own “Nutcracker!” And it’s not only the exclamation mark at the end of the title that differs from the classic version. Tchaikovsky’s music may be the only thing that remains the same in Bourne’s interpretation.
Tried-and-true “Nutcracker” performances open with the spectacle of a sumptuous Christmas party at Clara’s home, but Bourne had a different idea. His audience is first met with a bleak scene in an orphanage, like something from Charles Dickens’s “Oliver Twist.” Clara is no longer a girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but an orphan living under the malicious supervision of Dr. Dross, the orphanage director. The Nutcracker is reborn as a living orphan boy on whom Clara has a crush.
When the evil Dr. Dross shows his intent to steal the orphans’ Christmas presents, Clara and the Nutcracker Boy decide to escape, and their adventures begin. Bourne audaciously creates a new set of characters to make a livelier, modern sequence out of the visit to the Land of Sweets. The snowflake sequence at the end of Act I becomes an ice-skating performance. Bourne said in a recent interview that his “Nutcracker!” would take viewers back to their childhoods.
Debuting May 8 and running until May 30 in Seoul, “Nutcracker!” is likely to be a spectacle suitable for all audiences, whereas “Swan Lake” was arguably a bit too daring for some. Planning ahead for a special Christmas treat in the middle of May might not be a bad idea.
by Chun Su-jin
Tickets are on sale now, with prices ranging from 40,000 won ($33) to 100,000 won. To reach LG Arts Center in southern Seoul, take subway line No. 2 to Yeoksam Station and use exit 7, which is directly connected to the center. For more information, call (02) 2005-0114 or visit www.lgart.com (available in English).