Watching Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker ballet during December was never an annual tradition until the Dance Centre Kenya started it back in 2015. Coincidentally, that was the same year DCK got off the ground and began training young Kenyans in the rigours of both classical ballet and modern dance.
Last Saturday evening at the Kenya National Theatre, the fourth edition of The Nutcracker was beautifully staged. And while we’ve watched every edition from the start, this year’s performance was even more dazzling than previous years.
One reason for this is because the quality of dance continues to grow among the students of DCK’s artistic director Cooper Rust who also happens to be a marvellous and wholly hands-on dance instructor.
Cooper is also a former prima ballerina who’s both demanding and disciplined. At the same time, her rigour is mixed with a warm-heart and clear desire to see her students perform at their best. As such, that’s what we saw last Saturday during this year’s opening night performance. What’s especially impressive about this year’s show is that there are a number of new dancers performing in leading roles.
On opening night we had the good fortune to see Cooper perform the elegant role of the Snow Queen. On other nights, including this coming Saturday and Sunday, the Snow Queen will be performed by Stella Eising, 15, partnered with the Snow Cavalier, Lawrence Ogina, 22. The other special feature of this year’s Nutcracker is the fabulous Nairobi Philharmonic Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score live under the able baton of guest American Conductor Jonathan Rush. Cooper also secured the Ghetto Classics Children’s Choir from Kibera to sing. Finally, this year’s Nutcracker has beautiful sets and costumes as well as marvellous sound. My only regret is that the show didn’t win a Sanaa award for best dance theatre. Nonetheless, anyone who sees The Nutcracker is sure to give it their own accolade for a fabulous performance.