'Nutcracker' ballet gets modern treatment

By Walter Ang

Posted at Nov 22 2012 03:46 PM | Updated as of Nov 22 2012 11:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Ballet audiences are familiar with "The Nutcracker" as it is usually staged during the year-end holidays.

Set to Peter Tchaikovsky's music and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, the ballet's libretto is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King."

The story is about a girl who receives a nutcracker carved in the shape of a soldier on Christmas Eve. After she goes to bed, the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the evil Mouse King. The Nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince and takes the girl to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and different sweets from around the world.

Tchaikovsky's score has been given other ballet choreographies, such as by George Balanchine in the US and Noordin Jumalon (after Petipa and Ivanov) in the Philippines. Local companies sometimes set the production design in a Filipino setting.

The story has been remade into other mediums such as film, including excerpts in Disney's "Fantasia" and even a Barbie movie.

A new Filipino contemporary dance version of "The Nutcracker" presented by Myra Beltran’s Dance Forum takes off from a similar point: paper dolls of American icons.


Beltran has choreographed "Nutcracker Swit," a one-hour contemporary dance piece that retells "the classic as an adventure of a poor young boy, his loves, and desires, in scenes that meld together fantasy and reality."

"The 'swit' is a play on Tchaikovsky's 'suite' and the 'sweets' from the ballet. This show is my imagination of my parents' childhood, from the 1930s to 40s, and of their projection of desires couched in 1950's pop culture," she says. "The dance is filled with wonder, whimsy, and hope."

"The 'sweets' in Act 3 of the 'Nutcracker' ballet is really about desire," Beltran explains.

In her version, the sweets are rendered through popular American culture icons such as Shirley Temple. "We must remember that [Filipino children during those times] were inculcated with desire for American things."

For research, Beltran interviewed her own mother and it was revealed that "she kept her paper dolls from her childhood in a precious little box. When I found them and saw the Shirley Temple dolls and the cut-out magazine paper dolls, I knew I was on the right track."


The production will feature University of the Philippines Dance Company artists Dingdong Selga, Minette Maza, and Nicole Primero, as well as dancers from Chameleon Dance Theatre and Contemporary Dance Network Manila.

Performers from theater group Sipat Lawin Ensemble will also be part of the cast.

Videos used in the production were directed by Sherad Anthony Sanchez using video production design by Eddie Perez.

"Nutcracker Swit" will be the inaugural production of the newly renovated Dance Forum Studio in Quezon City, whose interiors were designed by The Pirouette Movement, University of the Philippines' Interior Design Batch 2013.

"Nutcracker Swit" runs from November 28 to 30, 7 p.m. at Dance Forum Studio, 36E West Ave., Quezon City. Student and senior discounts are available. Contact 0927-784-9579 or danceforum.mb@gmail.com, or visit mbdanceforum.com.