Dance review: Scottish Ballet's The Secret Theatre

In their new online film, The Secret Theatre, the dancers of Scottish Ballet fuse scenes from Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker and Christopher Hampson’s The Snow Queen to dazzling effect, writes Kelly Apter

Sophie Martin and Soloist Jerome Anthony Barnes in Scottish Ballet's The Secret Theatre PIC: Andy Ross
Sophie Martin and Soloist Jerome Anthony Barnes in Scottish Ballet's The Secret Theatre PIC: Andy Ross

Scottish Ballet: The Secret Theatre *****

Football and ballet rarely rub shoulders, but if there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. By now, Scottish Ballet should be knee-deep in its tour of The Nutcracker – instead, the company has unveiled a dazzling new feature film capturing all that’s good about live performance. We start with the aforementioned football, kicked along the street by a young boy (played with a natural enthusiasm by Leo Tetteh) until he finds himself at the doorstep of an empty theatre. Venturing inside, he discovers costumes, masks and props – remnants of the bustling industry we love and miss.

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Then, as if by magic, it all comes to life. Scenes from Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker and Christopher Hampson’s The Snow Queen are fused choreographically and musically, caught by a roving camera that floats and weaves as if it’s one of the dancers.

A travelling circus, a Roma camp and a frozen land populated by dancing snowflakes are all wrapped in the mild sense of peril evoked by the steely-eyed Snow Queen. Guests dancing at a festive party and a beautiful pas de deux from the Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince close the film, via a touching plot twist. By returning time and again to the young boy’s face, as he marvels at the action before him, we’re reminded just how impactful a trip to the theatre can be.

This has been a year filled with compromises, but while The Secret Theatre is deemed a replacement for the postponed Nutcracker tour, it feels like no compromise at all.

The Secret Theatre can be viewed at www.scottishballet.co.uk from 21-24 December.

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