Shumka’s Ukrainian Nutcracker offers a new spin on a timeless classic

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PREVIEW
Shumka’s Nutcracker, “Clara’s Dream
Guests: Citie Ballet, Viter Choir, and Ukraine’s Virsky and Kyiv Ballet
Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
11455 – 87 Ave.
Tickets: $25 to $80 Visit http://www.ticketmaster.ca

This year is the 5th edition of Ukrainian Shumka Dancers spirited Shumka’s Nutcracker, Clara’s Dream officially making it a holiday season staple.

“The years add up,” said Sturgeon Country resident John Pichlyk, an artistic consultant and choreographer for Nutcracker. “This year we’ve really picked up steam and built audiences on what Nutcracker is supposed to say. It’s taken on a life of its own and we’re seeing a more varied group of people coming to performances.”

Tchaikovsky’s score has always held a special place in the Ukrainian soul. Although he is acclaimed as one of Russia’s most popular composers of the Romantic period, Tchaikovsky had deep Ukrainian roots. So much so, that his bloodline influenced the score.

A national treasure, Shumka spent more than a decade forging alliances with Ukraine’s Virsky Ballet and Kyiv Ballet as well as Viter Choir and Citie Ballet to create a magical hybrid. It runs for three performances on Dec. 29 and 30 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

Pichlyk, who was Shumka’s artistic director from 1982 to 1986, was one of the visionaries in pushing the troupe’s boundaries by creating this unique cross-pollination of folk dance’s gravity-defying leaps and ballet’s elegance.

“It’s exciting to put a new spin on something that is character driven and is accepted by the community. This is a production that has everything. It’s got the eye candy. It’s got the visuals, the depth of history and a strong reflection of the classical technique.”

This traditional story is of Clara, a young girl whose Uncle Drosselmeier gifts her with a Nutcracker. Her younger, rapscallion brother Fritz breaks the Nutcracker. Later when Clara falls asleep, the Nutcracker magically transforms into a Prince who takes her on a fantasy adventure.

Tetyana Lozova, principal dancer from Kyiv Ballet of the National Opera of Ukraine, returns to perform the leading role of Clara.

“Tetyana is a seasoned prima ballerina. She has all the sensitivity and passion inherent in this role. The nice thing is she understands the sensitivity of the Ukrainian element, yet portrays the refinement of classical ballet.”

And Yaroslav Tkachuk also from Kyiv Ballet returns to dance the physically demanding role of the Nutcracker Prince.

“He’s very athletic and passionate. He will do anything to portray the demands of classical expectations but he is also a humble Ukrainian lad. He ably blends Ukrainian folk dance with classical and not a lot of people can fulfill that role.”

Longtime company dancer Joe Hoffman addresses the role of the mysterious and enigmatic Uncle Drosselmeier while Shumka alumnus Jeffrey Mortensen, a So You Think You Can Dance finalist and Cirque du Soleil performer reprises the role of Fritz.

“Joe is a nice little addition and Jeffrey is really branching out. Last year he was in Japan and was producing his own show. His skill set is excellent and he offers a human slant that is difficult to replicate.”

Several members of Virsky Ballet have nabbed solo roles while Citie Ballet provides the cultural representation in palace scenes, as Spanish dancers and in Waltz of the Flowers.

“Every year we add something new. This year we have a Celtic addition and Jorden Morris from Citie has been integral in making sure all the transitions are seamless.”

It is this collaboration of shared stories, spirit and traditions combined with grace, athleticism and colourful storytelling that foretells a long and enduring future.

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Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.