The Nutcracker On Ice: Q&A with Artistic Director Tony Mercer

If you've ever wanted to know more about the stunning company behind the Nutcracker On Ice, check out this interview with Tony Mercer, the Artistic Director of the Imperial Ice Stars performing at The Royal Albert Hall over the Christmas period:

How did the first production of The Nutcracker On Ice originate?

It originated from a conversation I had with James Cundell about wanting to create a specific Winter production. There is nothing as festive and heat warming as The Nutcracker On Ice. I wanted a production that was fully evocative of Christmas and of course The Nutcracker is synonymous with this! The Nutcracker also provides me with the perfect vehicle to build all the exquisite dance, daring acrobatics and stunning sets and costumes which the Imperial Ice Stars are renowned for.

What will be the challenges of bringing the production to the Royal Albert Hall?

There certainly are challenges to opening out the production to the magnificent arena of the Royal Albert Hall. But we rise to this in partnership with the Royal Albert Hall’s technical teams and Raymond Gubbay Ltd. We often perform in proscenium arch spaces, so we welcome the opportunities that arise from performing in a different space!  This will be our third visit and the company are looking forward to dancing to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score performed by a full orchestra.

What training / preparation have the dancers been through prior to joining The Imperial Ice Stars and performing in The Nutcracker On Ice and other productions?

Many people in Russia start ice skating at the age of 4 of 5 and then those who really excel go on to take it up as a sport. As they have completed their sporting career having joined the Imperial Ice Stars, they will be technically excellent. It is then my job to bring out their performance skills during a 6 month integration period upon joining The Imperial Ice Stars. I have just completed the auditions for The Nutcracker On Ice and started the rehearsal period. Every day of rehearsal starts with a mime and performance workshop. Then I go onto work on the dance sequences, building in all the wonderful lifts that you will see during the performance.

Is there any difference in the audience reaction in the many countries the production has been performed in?

We are fortunate to receive a warm reception to wherever we tour to. But it is always wonderful to perform in a country which has an understanding of the expertise and skill required of ice skating. For instance, Chinese audiences always warmly welcome us. It is always a great pleasure to perform in the United Kingdom, a country which of course has a strong tradition of Ice dancing and of course in recent years with John Curry, Robin Cousins and Jayne Torvill and Chris Dean. We love the UK reaction to our performances!

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