“Ladies and gentlemen, as you’ve probably noticed by now, Shumka loves to entertain!”
It was only intermission, but the vast applause from the crowd confirmed that was quite an understatement. Halfway through the distinctly-Edmonton creation known as Shumka’s Nutcracker, the audience was already completely captivated. Little did we know, what we had seen was barely a warmup for this formidable dance company.
Shumka takes this classic Christmas tale and Tchaikovsky’s famous score, and offers it with a uniquely Ukrainian twist. Worlds collide as the grace and beauty of ballet mix not only with the power and passion of Shumka Ukrainian dance, but an impressive array of other international dances.
The Principals and Soloists each boast resumes longer than their muscled legs. Clara and the Prince have been portrayed in recent years by Kyiv Ballet dancers Tetyana Lozova and Yaroslav Tkachuk. Notable guest dancers include the Sugar Plum Fairy, danced by Ballet Edmonton’s Kylee Hart; Clara’s brother Fritz, danced by Shumka and Cirque du Soleil Alumnus and gymnast-extraordinaire Jeffrey Mortensen; and the Irish dancers, danced by Mattierin Irish Dance team Londyn and Olivia Nachtigal.
The story is true to history. The Stahlbaum family is celebrating Christmas Eve, when young Clara is presented with a Nutcracker by her godfather. Clara’s mischievous brother Fritz breaks the toy, though it’s mended, thanks to the help of Clara’s dream choir (an impressive ensemble of singers from Edmonton choirs). In the night, Clara goes to check on her Nutcracker when they are surrounded by a scurrying team of mice and their king. The battle is on, and when Clara saves the day, her Nutcracker is transformed into a prince, who whisks her off on a magical adventure featuring a spectacle of dance from around the globe.
Of course, in this version, a stunning display of Ukrainian dance takes a predominant role. It’s like watching a bright and beautiful alternate version of the Olympiad – faster, higher, stronger – one after another, dancers perform spins, tricks and jumps that somehow, unfathomably, top their predecessors.
The sets are elaborate, the costumes exquisite, but ultimately the athleticism, elegance and showmanship of this company shines through and steals the show. The curtain had scarcely dropped before the crowd leapt to their feet, offering a standing ovation that lasted through all the bows and curtsies. And not a moment of it wasn’t deserved.
This is an incredible performance. I love the ballet version of The Nutcracker, but truth be told, Shumka’s version just takes it to another level. It’s a beautiful coming together of story and music and dance and grace and skill and talent. My four-year-old daughter summed it up best when the house lights came up, “That was amazing!”
As we walked out into the lobby we were surprised to see dancers mingling with the crowd, greeting their families and friends, and snapping photos with fans. During intermission the Dream Choir had been entertaining throngs of thrilled onlookers, many raising cell phones to capture the beautiful harmonies. It’s just another example of the magic of Shumka’s Nutcracker – the reality that many of these stars are our friends and neighbours.
The only downside to Shumka’s Nutcracker is that only three performances are offered – but given the popularity of this remarkable performance, which has become a Christmas mainstay in our city, I have no doubt it will continue to take the stage for years to come. It’s become an instant addition to our family’s Christmas must-do tradition list.
The Magic of Shumka’s Nutcracker:
When: December 22 and 23, 2018
Time: Saturday 2 pm & 7:30 pm, Sunday 2 pm
Where: Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, 11455 — 87 Avenue, Edmonton
Although we do our best to provide you with accurate information, all event details are subject to change. Please contact the facility to avoid disappointment.