THIS cunningly updated Nutcracker – choreographed by Ashley Page, designed by Antony McDonald and premiered in 2003 – was the beginning of an era that saw Scottish Ballet find its feet again.
Out went any hint of sugary-sweet dancing bon-bons, out went the 19th-century period style that made Hoffmann's original into a Dickens of a tale. In their stead, Page and McDonald conjured the heyday of the Weimar Republic – the Stahlbaums's Christmas party is a frisky-risque affair – and retrieved the dark menace of the Hard Nut story that underpins Drosselmeyer's gift of the Nutcracker Doll to Marie.
On opening night, Marie was danced by Sophie Martin who also made her Scottish Ballet debut in 2003, and is now a principal with the company. And if she still offers a Marie who is a solemn, rather intense little girl – wonderfully determined, mind, to hold onto her present – she is now outstanding as the glitteringly poised ballerina who, in dancing the celebrated Act II pas-de-deux with her Prince, is ready to be an adult.
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This pas-de-deux (which we associate with the Sugar Plum Fairy) was the only remnant of Petipa's choreography retained by Page. Martin is superb, as is Adam Blyde whose litheness, lightness and musicality are a joy.
Tama Barry's Drosselmeyes has a degree of swagger that nicely opposes the smouldering attack of Diana Loosmore's slinkily wicked Mouserink. And if injury has led to a stressful juggling of casts, with extra demands being placed on new young recruits, there's no falling away of energy or character. Page has, of course, now left the company. Marie and her Prince are on the cusp of a new era.