The Nutcracker

Esplanade Theatre, Singapore, December 2011
Choreographer: Janek Schergen
Set Designer: Aaron Yap
Lighting Designer: Suven Chan
Costume Designer: Aaron Yap
Produced by Singapore Dance Theatre

Set in around 1910s Shanghai, the set has to look distinctively Chinese for the “real life” scenes, but still retain the classical fantasy feel for the “dream” scenes. To achieve a cohesive look, some elements are repeatedly used in the various scenes. For example, the legs, which are painted with straight bold lines with some gradation, remains on stage throughout the ballet. During Act 1 scene 1, they represent the Art Deco design on the house interior; in scene 2, they become the trunks of tall pine trees when borders painted with non-realistic snowy leaves are being used, matching with the feel of the pine trees painted in the backdrop; in Act 2, these legs becomes pillars in the Palace of Sweets.

The costumes for this version of The Nutcracker are European-Chinese in style for Act 1 and fantasy-classical for Act 2 and 3. Act 1 is set in the house of the Nightingales, who are Chinese by race. However, to make them blend better into the culture of Christmas, they were dressed in costumes that are very European in style, whereas their relatives, the Aunt and her two twin girls, Grandmother and Grandfather, were dressed in Chinese silhouettes with varying degrees of “Europeaness”, so that they still look like a family, but yet do not look out of place among the other guests, many of whom are Europoeans.

Characters in Act 2 and 3 are generally classic characters, and therefore they are dressed according to their classical silhouette, playing with textures and colours to make their characters more eye-catching and more fantasy-like.