Fresh take on festive favourite

The Nutcracker delights audiences this season, Ron Cerabona writes

Georgia Powley and Hayden Baum are in <i> The Nutcracker Suite</i>.
Georgia Powley and Hayden Baum are in The Nutcracker SuitePhoto: Supplied

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canberra Youth Orchestra, the 65-player ensemble is teaming up with the Canberra Dance Development Centre to present Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite as part of a free family event at the Ainslie Arts Centre on Saturday.

CDCC director Jackie Hallahan is choreographing the ballet, which will present excerpts from the traditional Christmas favourite in a way that tells its own potted version of the story.

Hallahan says, ''We start with the family party in the March, the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is the pas de deux, there are candy canes in the Trepak and liquorice in the Dance of the Mirlitons, the Chinese Dance is tea, as is traditional, with umbrellas, and the Arabian Dance is coffee.''

And the concluding Waltz of the Flowers will provide an explosion of tutus.

''There are about 40 kids in the show, ranging from nine to 18 years, from our youth ballet - 12 and up - and also some of our younger ballet students,'' she says. The CDCC is in its 27th year.

The collaboration with the CYO follows on from a performance of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet in June and Hallahan says it's great for the dancers to be able to perform to live music.

CYO artistic director Rowan Harvey-Martin says the Nutcracker Suite is ''a lovely piece, it's got something for everyone. It's different for each member of the orchestra.''

The CYO members range in age from 13 to 25 and Harvey-Martin says the music presents challenges for each section, including some difficult chords for the strings and high oboe playing. And there's also an opportunity for some more unusual instruments to shine, such as the celeste in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The Nutcracker Suite will be the climax of an event that starts at 4pm and will include a variety of music from the different levels of the CYO's music programs.

The non-auditioned Camerata will perform Christmas carols and the Canberra Youth Sinfonietta, the youngest auditioned group, conducted by Louise Butler, will perform a section of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, accompanying young students from the CDCC, aged five and six, who will be dancing on stage.

At the next level is the String Ensemble, with members aged nine to 12, who will perform Corelli's Christmas Concerto, conducted by Shilong Le. The String Orchestra, with players aged between 13 and 16, will perform Stephen Chin's Gathering Storm, conducted by Katherine Owen.

There will be performances of Christmas carols by the Canberra Children's Choir and the Jazz Orchestra, conducted by John Mackey, will perform several numbers, including Hey Jude and In a Sentimental Mood.

The Nutcracker and other performances and festivities will be on at Ainslie Arts Centre, Elouera Street, Braddon on Saturday, December 8 from 4pm: CDDC and Sinfonietta at 5.30pm, The Nutcracker at 6.45pm. Admission is free.