Nostalgia: A glimpse at Cork City Ballet's glittering past as the company celebrates 30 years 

Guest dancers from overseas touched down in Cork on Monday to commence rehearsals with Cork City Ballet ahead of the opening of the seasonal classic on Thursday evening.
Nostalgia: A glimpse at Cork City Ballet's glittering past as the company celebrates 30 years 

Dancers in Cork City Ballet pictured in 2011. Picture: Miki Barlok

DANCERS are jetéing and pirouetting across the stage of Cork Opera House this week as Cork City Ballet returns with an enchanting, full-length production of The Nutcracker.

Guest dancers from overseas touched down in Cork on Monday to commence rehearsals with Cork City Ballet ahead of the opening of the seasonal classic on Thursday evening.

Prima ballerina Katerina Petrova and her partner Tsetso Ivanov from the National Ballet Sofia in Bulgaria dance the leading roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince in Cork City Ballet’s production of the much-loved Christmas ballet in association with Benchmark International.

The production, running for four performances, marks the Cork company’s first production since 2019’s Swan Lake due to the pandemic.

Directed by Alan Foley with choreography by Yury Demakov, the production, set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, promises to be a “thrilling spectacle of sumptuous dance delights”, featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince along with other principals, soloists, and a full corps de ballet.

Alan Foley pictured in 1998 after he became the first person in Ireland to be awarded the fellowship examination of the Imperial Society of Dancing. Picture: Denis Minihane 
Alan Foley pictured in 1998 after he became the first person in Ireland to be awarded the fellowship examination of the Imperial Society of Dancing. Picture: Denis Minihane 

Speaking ahead of the opening performance, artistic director of Cork City Ballet, Alan Foley, said the production will appeal to a wide variety of people.

“In these tough economic times, Cork City Ballet is proud to continue to represent the classical ballet genre in its home city, with a spectacular event which is sure to please every cultural palate at an affordable price,” he said.

The production coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Cork ballet company, one of only two professional ballet companies in the country, and the longest running.

Cork City Ballet carries on a 60-year tradition, a legacy started by the late Joan Denise Moriarty.

It was founded by Mr Foley, himself a student of Ms Moriarty, in 1992.

Alan Foley helping Monica Loughman try on her Kirov tutu during rehearsals in 2004. Picture: Richard Mills
Alan Foley helping Monica Loughman try on her Kirov tutu during rehearsals in 2004. Picture: Richard Mills

Delving through The Echo archives, an article from March that year gives detail of the new company’s inaugural production, Ballet for All.

Staged in The Everyman, it featured excerpts from ballets including The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

In 1994, the company’s third big production Ballet Spectacular again featured excerpts from some of the best-loved ballets and came to the Firkin Crane in April.

According to an Echo article, the production saw the return of 25 dancers from Harrison College of Dance and Drama in London.

“The show will also feature Martha Chapman, who comes from New York, to be principal guest of [Cork] City Ballet. The repertoire of the production will range from contemporary to classical and on to musical,” the article stated.

The Ballet Spectacular seasons grew to be immensely popular, touring all the major venues in Ireland.

Members of the Cork City Ballet company and artistic director Alan Foley pictured in 1999 before leaving for the Isle of Man on a week long tour. Picture: Des Barry 
Members of the Cork City Ballet company and artistic director Alan Foley pictured in 1999 before leaving for the Isle of Man on a week long tour. Picture: Des Barry 

In 1998, as one photo from the archives shows, Mr Foley became the first person in Ireland to be awarded the prestigious Fellowship Diploma in Classical Ballet (with distinction), of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London.

He retired from the professional stage in 2007 but continues his work as artistic director of Cork City Ballet and principal of the Alan Foley Academy of Dance.

Cork City Ballet has stood the test of time, and said it takes “immense pride” in producing large-scale productions like The Nutcracker, which put Cork ballet on the map.

It allows Cork to stand shoulder to shoulder with international touring companies.

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