Published on 5 Jan 2012 in Al Ahram Weekly
One of the core elements of Christmas around the world is the Nutcracker ballet to music by P.I. Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker is one of those rare performances enjoyed across generations. This year, between 22 and 28 December, the Cairo Opera Ballet Company gave eight performances of the ballet at the Cairo Opera House Main Hall. Six soiree performances were accompanied by the Cairo Opera Orchestra conducted by Nayer Nagui, while the two matinees were to recorded music.
The critic J. Fisher calls The Nutcracker “astonishingly rich in inspiration” and “from beginning to end, beautiful, melodious, original, and characteristic”. Based on the story The Nutcracker and the King of Mice by E.T.A. Hoffman, and revised by Dumas, the ballet uses choreography by Pepita, Ivanov and Vaionine, with additional touches by Abdel Moneim Kamel. This year, once again, it was brought back to stage with the support of Erminia Kamel, the artistic director of the company.
All 85 dancers of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company were involved in the production of the ballet, with many roles having up to six casts. Erminia Kamel stressed the dancer’s greater challenge this year due to the political turmoil, with a number of foreign dancers leaving over the past few months, including one first dancer and one soloist. The company has contracted new dancers from the Cairo ballet school.
But the loss of dancers is not the only challenge the company faces. The rise of Islamists to power, with many making statements troublesome to the entire arts scene, a number of artists and art-lovers alike wonder about the future of the ballet. Shaker Abd El-Hamid, the Minister of Culture, expects ballet to be one of the first art forms to face serious troubles. Erminia Kamel however remains positive, trusting the group’s dedication and enthusiasm, and announcing that the dancers will work on bringing back the to the stage next ballet, Swan Lake.