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Since the very first production of Nutcracker opened on 18 December 1892 with Tchaikovsky’s magical score, it has become the quintessential Christmas ballet for families to enjoy each year and is performed by nearly every ballet company around the world. But what makes English National Ballet’s production different from the rest?

Choreographed by Wayne Eagling (our Artistic Director from 2006-2012), we have been performing this version of Nutcracker at the London Coliseum every year since 2010. Here are just 5 reasons that make this production unique:

1. The Mouse King, his minions and a cheese cannon

Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 short story ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’, the plot of Nutcracker ballets usually involves mice and their Mouse King battling it out with young Clara, her Nutcracker doll and his army of tin soldiers.

English National Ballet’s production is no different  – but our Mouse King is a truly perfect villain.

With his large costume, complete with big red eyes, he is a ferocious-looking enemy; his swagger will make you chuckle; and he’s got a fierce weapon: a cheese cannon! The mice use it to throw a big block of cheese at their opponents – which sometimes comically misses, making for a funny battle for all to enjoy.


Mouse King close-up - English National Ballet in Nutcracker at the London Coliseum © Laurent Liotardo (5)
Close-up of the Mouse King in English National Ballet's Nutcracker © Laurent Liotardo
The Mouse King, mice and the cheese cannon in English National Ballet's Nutcracker © Laurent Liotardo.

2. A hot air balloon whisks them away

Following the battle, Clara and the injured Nutcracker are pursued by the Mouse King through the land of snow. With Drosselmeyer’s help, they escape on a hot air balloon, flying across the snowy landscape and into Act 2 – an enchanting, gasp-inducing vision!

English National Ballet in Nutcracker at the London Coliseum © Laurent Liotardo
English National Ballet in Nutcracker at the London Coliseum © Laurent Liotardo

3. The iconic Waltz of the Flowers

The hot air balloon transports Clara next to a puppet theatre where dancers from all over the world come to life. Her dream continues with the puppet theatre disappearing to reveal a beautiful garden where over 20 dancers perform the Waltz of the Flowers.

Waltz of the Flowers is usually only performed by female dancers, but English National Ballet’s production has male dancers partnered with female dancers, which offers some stunning choreography set to Tchaikovsky’s grand music.

Video: Artists of English National Ballet in Waltz of the Flowers © Laurent Liotardo

4. Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy

In most productions of Nutcracker, in Act 2, Clara becomes a spectator, watching the different dances. In our version, she becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy herself.

Most of the ballet occurs in Clara’s dream, where she finds adventure and romance: her Nutcracker doll becomes the young man she met at the party, and together they dance the iconic pas de deux at the end of the ballet – the icing on the cake for this character’s journey!

Video: Erina Takahashi as Sugar Plum Fairy in English National Ballet's Nutcracker Delights © Photography by ASH

5. Pointe shoe tree and the magic of the London Coliseum

It’s not only the ballet itself that makes a visit to Nutcracker the perfect festive treat. It’s also worth a visit to see English National Ballet’s pointe shoe tree, on display in the foyer of the London Coliseum.

Made up of over 500 pointe shoes, this Christmas tree installation is an annual tradition. The tree was conceived by Amber Hunt, a former Artist of the Company. Each year a  tree is made using recycled pointe shoes from our dancers that are then hand-dyed by our Dyer/Painter Symone Frost.

For over 20 years, English National Ballet has performed Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. With over 2,330 seats, the London Coliseum is the largest theatre in London’s West End: its grandeur lends itself perfectly to the magic of this ballet – an annual tradition for many.

Book now to see Nutcracker at the London Coliseum and at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton and enjoy some childhood wonder this festive season.

Video: William Simmons as Mouse King and Aitor Arrieta as Nutcracker in ENB's production at the London Coliseum © Laurent Liotardo