Early on Monday evening, knowing that I was going to see The Nutcracker, my thoughts had already turned to the land of dreams, fantasy and childhood. I had seen the ballet many years ago and remembered that it, in simple terms, describes a magical dream that a young girl has on Christmas night.
I was anticipating ornate sets and glitzy costumes; I thought that technically there must be a far greater scope for special effects and clever tricks than since my last visit to the ballet. I was expecting Yuletide gaiety and a good handful of chintz.
There was none. In fact, there was something sinister about the grey-black set and dampened gold stars almost twinkling above me.
And I'm more than thankful that my camp desire was not indulged.
It was this raw, simple and elegant milieu that allowed me to be taken to the dark and bizarre land of Marie's dream. I made the mistake of thinking childhood equals untarnished excitement and Disney-like innocence. Grigorovich's Nutcracker doesn't honour this myth and instead takes the audience into a harsher reality.
The dancing, although determinately graceful, had a grittiness to it. The two principals drew you in with their sincere and powerful skill, but the routines were not seamless. However, again, this achieved an appropriately tense atmosphere. Imagine the feeling you have when you experience a dream, and although it doesn't have the narrative of a nightmare, you are left feeling unsettled.
Grigorovich's version of Nutcracker was first seen in Russia in 1966 at the Balshoi Theatre in Moscow. The production is brought to the UK by Ellen Kent, producer and director of Opera and Ballet International; and despite a number of minor changes it recreates the original performance.
Tonight was particularly special for another reason. Ellen Kent appeared on stage before the event began and announced that we were going to witness the performance of a young girl, Katy, aged ten. Katy's debut had been made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organisation granting wishes for children living with life-threatening illnesses.
Katy came on in her wheelchair during the opening dances where she formed part of the Christmas party. As she spun round she looked delighted and delightful. There's no more perfect a metaphor than this. A young girl has a wish, a wish is granted and a dream lived; yet while this is wonderful, there's an underlying sadness to the experience.
Grigorovich's Nutcracker does not idolise childhood fantasy but instead reminds us of what it is like to feel wonder, terror and excitement all at once.