Oh my lordy. It’s been a month and only now am I sitting down to write about What I Did In December. I flew up to Sydney on Friday 3rd for the opening night of The Australian Ballet‘s Sydney season of Sir Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker, which was also the night on which the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award winner would be announced. Amy Harris was named winner of the $5,000 People’s Choice Award (her second!) and the joint winners of the $20,000 main event were Dana Stephensen and Ty King-Wall. Sponsors came to the party and instead of splitting the prize money, both were given $20,000. Very exciting waiting for the announcement, actually wanted all the nominees to win, was completely unsurprised by King-Wall being named, and delighted Stephensen shared the award.

Opening night casting: Lucinda Dunn and Robert Curran as Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince – sublime! Just a totally wonderful grand pas de deux, so glad I made the effort to get to Sydney as Curran hadn’t danced the role in Melbourne (where I saw 5 performances).

Memory standouts: Daniel Gaudiello and Kevin Jackson (both newly-promoted to Principal Artist) as Clara’s Dancing Partner, the amazing and ever-changing face makeup on Drosselmeyer’s Assistant (yes that’s Chengwu Guo and Tzu-Chao Chou I’m talking about), some wonderful Harlequins and Columbines (Ben Davis, Juliet Burnett), Kevin Jackson as the Prince, Snow Fairies Laura Tong and Lana Jones (also a new Principal Artist), Rose Fairies Amber Scott and Lana Jones, “Tea” divertissement danced by a certain pair of Chinese dancers, the Waltz of the Flowers, the Snowflakes and Snow Fairy every time, the scene in the forest where the Nutcracker doll turns into the Prince, King Rat (or Mouse) as danced by Rudy Hawkes and Ben Davis, Mirlitons who were always delightful even if it wasn’t individual dancers’ preferred roles, Clara as danced by Reiko Hombo, Miwako Kubota, and Leanne Stojmenov…

I made a second trip to Sydney on 15th December, watching 5 more performances, 3 from standing room (take your comfiest shoes and a bottle of water!), the last of which saw Madeleine Eastoe partnered by Chi Cao of Birmingham Royal Ballet, known to Australian audiences as “adult Li” in the film Mao’s Last Dancer.

Wow. My new favourite bit of the whole ballet is the scene in the pine forest where the Nutcracker Doll becomes the Prince, and Clara’s journey really begins.