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Christmas magic with The Nutcracker

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Even if you’ve never seen The Nutcracker you’ll know its music.

It evokes magic and fantasy, fairy dust and toys coming to life at the stroke of midnight. Hearing it brings Christmas one step closer and makes you feel like a wide-eyed child thrust into a world of enchantment and wonder.

For the last few years The Nutcracker has ended the season for the Queensland Ballet and this year it’s a gift they’re sharing with Canberrans. Directed by Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director Li Cunxin (known to many from Mao’s Last Dancer) and performed by an ensemble cast, The Nutcracker is a magical start to our Christmas festivities.

On Christmas Eve 1890 the Stahlbaum family have gathered their friends together beneath a huge Christmas tree in St Petersburg. Their daughter Clara is delighted to be given a lifelike wooden nutcracker and falls asleep with it clasped in her arms. That starts an adventure that includes a thrilling battle against the forces of the Mice King and a journey into the Land of Sweets with the Sugarplum Fairy.

The Queensland Ballet’s Lina Kim-Wheatstone is not immune to the magic of this particular ballet. “It’s goose bumps for me when the music starts, hearing that harp,” she tells me. “As soon as you hear that you know it’s Christmas!”

Having performed Clara for several years, she is now bringing several characters to life in this production, dancing the roles of the Snow Queen and an Arabian Aunty. I ask her what it’s like to tackle multiple roles in one performance and she says that despite back to back rehearsals making some days very challenging, the story is clear and each character has unique qualities.

Lina Kim-Wheatstone

Lina Kim-Wheatstone

She has loved being Clara in the past as it gives her a chance to share the audience’s reaction. “Sitting at the back of the stage in Clara’s chair, seeing all the dancers in front of you, you get to look out and watch the audience, there are always lots of little kids and you see their open mouths and eyes really wide. In the party scene too we have little kids on stage and they’re not pretending, they are genuinely excited.”

The Nutcracker is such a family oriented story and it is often the first ballet aspiring young dancers are taken to, starting their dream to be on stage. When I ask Lina if that happened to her she says she was already studying dancing by the time she saw her first performance, Sleeping Beauty. “I loved the prettiness of it and as I was already taking classes I knew wanted to be a dancer,” she says.

Born in South Korea, Lina was dancing from the age of four, and after her family moved to Australia when she was 11, she continued training at the Queensland School of Dance Excellence.

2016 has been an important one in her career. She has danced the role of fairy queen Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream and was promoted to junior soloist during the year.

Lina says audiences will be particularly enchanted with the set design of The Nutcracker this year, and the centrepiece is a huge Christmas tree. When I tell her I have an image of the cast gathered around the tree, decorations in hand helping trim it, Lina laughs out loud. “It’s so beautifully decorated, the designers have worked so hard and done such an amazing job. They don’t need me ruining it!”

the essentials

What: The Nutcracker performed by the Queensland Ballet
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: Wednesday 23-Friday 25 November, 7.30pm; Saturday 26th-Sunday 27 November 1.30pm & 7.30pm
Tickets: Adult $65 – $90, Concession $55 – $80, Group 8+$55 – $80 per person, Under 27 $45 – $65 Children, $35 – $55
More information:

All images by David Kelly. This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here

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