Interview: Exciting Children’s company of dancers to accompany Cape Town City Ballet’s Nutcracker, summer of 2022- Roxy Levy chats about the excitement of working with the young dancers

The Nutcracker- presented by Cape Town City Ballet  

When: December 7 to 23, 2022, at Artscape in the Opera House

Company: Cape Town City Ballet
Creative team: Veronica Paeper (choreographic adaption), Peter Cazalet and Michael Mitchell (set design and costumes), Wilhelm Disbergen (lighting design)

Live and recorded music: Some performances are accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) under the baton of Brandon Phillips. Other performances are set to recorded music  

Bookings: Artscape Dial-A-Seat 021 421 7695 or through Computicket  

The Nutcracker is performed to the music by Tchaikovsky, with libretto by Marius Petipa, adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Choreography is by Pamela Chrimes and David Poole after Lev Ivanov    

The Nutcracker – ballet– which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year – 2022- is one of the most popular classical ballets. Cape Town City Ballet is presenting an epic production of The Nutcracker for the Cape Town summer of 2022, from December 7-23 in the Artscape Opera House.  It is produced by Veronica Paeper. For select performances, the ballet will be accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), conducted by Brandon Phillips. There is recorded music at the other performances. A thrilling aspect of this production is that there are 40 child dancers, on stage, in each performance. All up, 120 child dancers have been selected, through national auditions, to perform in this ballet, along with dancers from CTCB. Note – an exciting performance for children is on Friday December 23, at 3pm, when there will be a Children’s Parade. Children are invited to take pictures with the characters on stage and receive a sweet treat. This performance is set to recorded music.Veteran choreographer and dance teacher, Roxy Levy is in heading up the children’s company for this exciting Nutcracker and she provides insights into working with the young dancers who are “adding magic” to this much loved ballet, infused with touches by Veronica Paeper. For instance, there will be a Florencemouseingale [Florence Nightingale for mice].

National auditions

Forty children are performing in each performance with Cape Town City Ballet. All up there have been 120 children selected, through national auditions. Could anyone audition or did they have to be attached to a studio or ballet school?

Roxy Levy: There are 120 children involved in this production of The Nutcracker, which is so exciting. Anyone could audition regardless of which studio they belonged to. They had to be available for rehearsals in Cape Town so understandably most of the over 300 children who auditioned for the Party, Mice or Snow scenes were from the Western Cape. However the search for the role of Clara and Fritz took us to George, Durban and Gauteng for auditions.

Young and talented dancers from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town

In terms of child roles: Clara, Fritz, Louise and children guests. What are the ages of the kids and where are they from – in terms of provinces in South Africa?

Roxy Levy: The leading roles of Clara and Fritz are played by children between the ages of 11 to 14. There are six children, playing Clara: Two from Cape Town; one from Durban; one from Pretoria and two from Johannesburg. Fritz: There are three from Cape Town and one from Durban. Rehearsing the children who are not in Cape Town has been an interesting process. I sent videos to their teachers and then they sent videos back to ensure everyone is on the same page, so to speak.

Magical choreography– the Florencemouseingale

Are you responsible for the choreography for the child company for this production? It must be interesting to marshal and co-ordinate 40 children per performance?

Roxy Levy: Veronica Paeper is responsible for the children’s choreography but I do get to do some snippets of choreography. Veronica has introduced a delightful scene for the mice children. It is too precious: There is a first aid team. Some of the mice come to rescue the other mice when they are fighting the soldiers. There are stretcher carriers and a Florencemousingale- as in Florence Nightingale- but for mice. Apart from the younger children, Veronica has also choreographed roles for some of the more senior children who are performing with the company en pointe, in the snow scene. It is both challenging and exciting to have so many children in The Nutcracker but they are all loving the experience and their joy of performing with the company members is awesome to watch.

Working with the music- live and recorded

The CPO is playing at some performance and there is recorded music at other shows. That must also be challenging – working with live and recorded music- and cuing the kids in and then also working with the adult performers?

Roxy Levy: The children have only heard the recorded music as we are still in rehearsals. I cannot wait for them to perform with the CPO. I have no doubt there might be some challenges but they are such an amazing group of children that I am sure they will adapt suitably. They are truly fortunate to be not only performing on the Artscape Opera Stage but to also have the CPO playing – what a gift.

Magical work with remarkable musical score

This year marks the 130th anniversary of the premiere of the Nutcracker. I see that major American ballet companies generate around 40% of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker. It is hugely popular- for all ages.  It must be thrilling to be part of this celebratory production– post Covid – with full houses and back to ‘normal’?

Roxy Levy:  It feels so right to have this production to be playing now. It is a truly a magical work with the most remarkable musical score. After rehearsals it lingers in my head, for ages. The company members are looking beautiful. The costumes are outstanding, the set is going to be sensational and our younger dancers are super, energised and beyond excited. This production is pretty spectacular in every way. The sheer magnificence of everyone working together is so exciting. It is Cape Town City Ballet at its best. And then the younger ballet dancers just add to the magic. They are truly delightful. Each of the girls selected to play Clara are so talented and beautiful. It is wonderful to be working with this calibre of child- so young and so committed. Veronica Paeper has adapted this version of David Poole’s ballet and added her own touches of sheer brilliance.

Magic of the Nutcracker: Veteran Cape Town dance teacher and choreographer, Roxy Levy is working with 120 young dancers, who are dancing in Cape Town City Ballet’s 2022 production of The Nutcracker. Image supplied.

✳This interview has been marginally edited for length and clarity. Featured image – Roxy Levy working with the young dancers in Cape Town City Ballet’s 2022 production of The Nutcracker. Images supplied.