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"˜The Nutcracker' ballet was a roaring success in Ho Chi Minh City, sparking hope for the local ballet scene

A scene in the ballet "˜The Nutcracker' performed on November 12-13 at Ho Chi Minh City's Opera House

Nearly 600 seats in the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House sold out for Vietnam's first showings of "The Nutcracker" on November 12 and 13.

The premiere show was wrapped in jubilation from head to toe.

Santa Claus handed out brochures and leaflets about the show in the Opera House's front square.

Additionally, the stage's color-blocking and sparkling decorations brought a fresh look to ballet, which locals used to describe as humdrum with artists dancing in white costumes in front of a monotonous background.

The Pyotr Ilyrich Tchaikovsky's world-famous ballet is based on the fairy tale "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman. For this first showing in Vietnam, the ballet was choreographed by Johanne Jakhelln Constant, art director and choreographer of the Norway Moving Art Troupe.

Constant first choreographed this ballet for the Ballet Quad Cities in the United States in 1998. "The Nutcracker" is one of the biggest prides of the American performing company and still enchants the public.

Constant said he made small adjustments in the arrangement, choreography and movements in the ballet for local artists.

The one hour and twenty minute-long show was performed in two-act and four scenes. Nearly 30 dancers practiced for two months to perform a story about a small girl's dream of being lost in fantasy world, where toys become larger than life and she is rescued by the Nutcracker prince on Christmas Eve.

"The ballet is not only for kids but also [a] special present for grown-up ballet-lovers. They will have more than one hour to travel into an attractive world of fairy tale," Constant said.

Canadian Adam Lean, who was in the audience, said that his family enjoys "The Nutcracker" every holiday season in his homeland, and this is the first time he has seen the play in an Asian country.

"The local artists' skills are not as professional as North Americans'. However, the performers are brilliant in exposing their youthful and confident spirit, which is the difference in the Vietnamese version from other countries' "˜The Nutcrackers,'" Lean said.

HCMC Ballet and Symphony Orchestra (HBSO), the ballet's producer, said it did not anticipate "The Nutcracker" would be so well-received, with tickets selling out before the show dates. Attendance surpassed prior shows, including Giai dieu mua thu (The Autumn Melodies Gala) an annual festival garnering local and overseas academic music talents.

"Two nights' tickets were sold out," said Nguyet Sa, head of HBSO's performing organization. Ticket prices ranged from VND100,000 to 600,000 (US$4.7-$28.5), and the show received a long applause.

With artists who are well-educated in ballet, symphony and orchestra, HBSO aims to provide high-quality, cultural and diplomatic exchange performances on the 9th and 19th of every month to serve expatriates living and working in the city.

Previously, HSBO ballet performances mainly attracted foreigners.

But in the past two years, HBSO has attracted local audiences with permanent symphony orchestra concerts. Building on the success of "The Nutcracker," it hopes to continue to attract local audiences to the ballet.

Although some locals expressed disappointment that the ballet only had two shows, the Opera House could not extend the performance because other programs are already scheduled.

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