Bourne puts his spin on another classic: ‘Nutcracker!’

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Bourne puts his spin on another classic: ‘Nutcracker!’

British choreographer Matthew Bourne has a reputation for recreating classic ballets with provocative twists. His “Swan Lake,” a big hit in Seoul last year, features muscular men as the swans, instead of the ballerinas one usually sees. Another Tchaikovsky masterpiece, the Nutcracker Ballet, has now been given the Bourne touch; “Nutcracker!” opens tomorrow at LG Arts Center in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul.
Bourne’s penchant for innovation didn’t even leave the title intact. But Tschaikovsky’s music, he says, remains as it was.
“I never mess around with the music,” Bourne said with a smile at a press conference in Seoul, held in March just before “Nutcracker!” opened in Tokyo.
“Nutcracker!” opens in an orphanage ― a striking departure from the original, set in the home of a wealthy family. Clara, the young protagonist, is not anyone’s apple-of-the-eye daughter, but an orphan; she doesn’t dream about a nutcracker coming to life, but falls in love with an actual boy.
Though the Nutcracker Ballet has long been a Christmas tradition, Bourne sees no problem with a springtime production. “It’s not specifically Christmasy,” he said. He calls his production “all the theater should be... My job [as a choreographer] is about pleasing the audience. There’s no point otherwise.”
Asked why he keeps working on classics, he said, “Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a commercially successful theatrical performance unless it’s a famous title. People are not so adventurous.”
Despite his innovations, Bourne stressed that he’s careful about approaching classics. “I’m very true to the music,” Bourne said. “The whole reason I did the production is the music.”
His interests in other genres, however, spur him to bring new elements to the warhorses. A huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock, he said he finds inspiration from films and musicals. He wasn’t exposed to a ballet performance until he was 18; he began to pursue dance at 22, eventually establishing avant-garde ballet troupes.
Now 44, Bourne studies audiences carefully during performances; he says he’s seen “Nutcracker!” more than 250 times by now. “The audience in Tokyo was relatively quiet, but I was relieved when some of the auidence came up to me after the performance and said they really loved it,” Bourne said. “But vocal reaction is bigger here in Korea.”
He’s showing every sign of continuing to indulge his experimental spirit. Future projects, he said, include “Mary Poppins” and “Edward Scissorhands.”

by Chun Su-jin

“Nutcracker!” opens tomorrow at the LG Arts Center and runs through May 30. Some tickets remain available at No performances are given on Monday, with one each on weekdays and two on weekends. Prices range from 40,000 won ($33) to 100,000 won; for more information, call (02) 2005-0114.
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