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Clara's Dream: A Christmas fantasy to remember

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 08, 2014 06:00 am

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  • STORY THROUGH MOVEMENT – Clara's Dream tells the story of The Nutcracker through Ukrainian dance.
    STORY THROUGH MOVEMENT – Clara's Dream tells the story of The Nutcracker through Ukrainian dance.
    Supplied photo
  • VISUAL FEAST – Clara's Dream includes a variety of costumes and dances, such as the Snowflake Dance.
    VISUAL FEAST – Clara's Dream includes a variety of costumes and dances, such as the Snowflake Dance.

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Clara’s Dream
Shumka Ukrainian Dance
Jan. 10 to 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Tickets: $27 to $53 Call 1-855-985-5000 or online at

There is a real source of pride among local Ukrainians that composer Peter Tchaikovsky’s bloodline extended straight to Ukraine.

His grandfather was Ukrainian and Tchaikovsky often spent many summers with his sister in Kamenka, a tranquil place of retreat where he could compose without the distractions of city life.

Inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s beloved The Nutcracker and set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic composition, the second annual Clara’s Dream is told through Ukrainian character and dance. It runs Jan. 10 and 11 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

This dreamy, magical hybrid brings together three foremost dance companies – Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, Virsky – The Ukrainian State Folk Dance Company and Kyiv Ballet.

“The biggest challenge we’ve had with Clara’s Dream is extending the holiday season for the general public. We receive a lot of support from the Ukrainian community, but we’re hoping that as it gains momentum, the public will come to see it. We’re very excited about it and would like to make it a holiday tradition,” says former Shumka artistic director John Pichlyk.

The Sturgeon County resident represents Shumka interests and speaks with stellar praise of both Virsky and Kyiv Ballet.

“Kyiv Ballet represents the classical beauty. Virsky has the vitality and discipline required in Ukrainian dance and Shumka brings an unbridled passion and a Canadian flavour.”

Starring in the coveted role of the Nutcracker Prince is former Shumka dancer and season three So You Think You Can Dance finalist Jeff Mortensen. He just spent two months in Kyiv training under Kyiv Ballet’s resident choreographer Viktor Lytvynov.

“Jeff brings a whole new fresh lexicon that blends the two worlds. He understands movement and brings a real magic and real sensitivity from his Ukrainian background.”

“He’s one of those dancers that lets his heart speak through his body. He’s one of those dancers that internalizes emotion and projects it so seamlessly.”

Mortensen partners Kyiv Ballet’s prima ballerina Tetiana Tsygankova as Clara, the young girl who is transported through an enchanted fairytale kingdom.

“We needed somebody who could portray a young girl coming of age and could tell the story though experience and movement. And Tetiana is very young and sweet,” explains producer Michael Sulyma.

There have been several tweaks to the theatrical presentation including expanding the puppet theatre during the Christmas party and heightening the Rat-Cossack battle scene as well as a few surprises for the audience.

“Maria Levitska’s set is pure eye candy. It brings to life the Snow Flake Waltz with a self-propelled gondola,” notes Pichlyk.

He adds, “Christmas is a time when a lot of people want to share the spirit of the season. We are proud of what we’ve done – bringing together three companies and paying homage to a man who wrote a beautiful score. And we hope Edmonton will accept is as a holiday event.”


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