MOST people can attribute a certain sound or smell with a memory or event.

For me, Tchaikovsky's music for the ballet The Nutcracker does just that.

Even if you know nothing about where the music has come from or the story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King written by E.T.A Hoffmann which forms the basis of the ballet, you will be sure to recognise some of the orchestral pieces.

It is the music of the march of the young guests in Act 1 which transports me back to my my very first experience of seeing a ballet, to driving in the dark and to the music being played in the car.

And as I sat watching The Vienna Festival Ballet present The Nutcracker at Theatre Royal Windsor at opening night on Tuesday, that magical feeling of being able to recall a time and place happened again.

This is the 35th anniversary tour of The Vienna Festival Ballet and what better way for them to share the love of ballet and music than through The Nutcracker.

The ballet company started by Peter Mallek, from Vienna, began in Sussex in 1980.

VFB is a touring company doing it all independently of any arts or government funding. They don't have a home-theatre base, but use portable sets and costume rails.

Around 400,000 people now see VFB during the seven months they tour.

And what they do, as evident with their performance of The Nutcracker, is inspire the next generation of ballet dancers and embrace local communities giving younger ballerinas a platform to perform.

So when you see a group of youngsters on stage in Windsor, the joy of seeing they are dancers from The Heidi Rhodes School of Dancing, you can only nod and say “well done VFB”.

The Nutcracker is the perfect starter for the Christmas season at Windsor's Theatre Royal.

It is Christmas Eve and Clara and her brother Fritz are holding a party. Their mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer arrives and entertains them, bringing with him some dolls he has made.

He also brings a special gift: a Nutcracker doll which he presents to Clara.

After the party finishes and everyone has gone, Clara creeps downstairs to retrieve her doll. Uncle Drosselmeyer appears and magically transforms her doll into a handsome Prince.

Clara finds herself surrounded by large mice and their king who wage war on the toy soldiers and their leader, the Nutcracker Prince.

Clara saves him by hitting the Mouse King with her shoe. The Prince and Clara then journey to the Kingdom of Snow where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy.

To celebrate Clara's rescuing of the Prince a party is thrown with gifts from around the world. As the party ends Clara drifts off to sleep and wakes up in her house clutching her Nutcracker doll.

This is the dream of many. And VFB's version is a dream to enjoy.

It is a much welcome return for Emily-Joy Smith whose mesmerising display of skill, beauty and perfection commands the tiny stage that Windsor must seem to a ballerina of her talent.

As the Sugar Plum Fairy her lightness on her feet creates a flutter-like movement and her poise is captivating.

Perdita-Jayne Lancaster is a delightful Clara with astonishing presence throughout the ballet.

Performing in the Kingdom of Snow celebration is Helena Casado Cortes as the Arabian dancer whose dancing is out of this world. She is everything that is great about ballet. Her flawless dance leaves you in sheer awe of her technique, her strength and her legwork.

Also standing out in the talented troop is Valentina Leali who is first seen as Fritz but is easy to spot throughout the rest of the ballet in the different roles with an air of confidence and experience.

What Vienna Festival Ballet does is bring ballet to the people. It may be recorded music, but nothing is lost in what ballet does best. The Nutracker is of dreams and what VFB represents is that anyone can live out their dreams.


The Nutcracker is on at Theatre Royal Windsor until Saturday. Evening performances are at 7.30pm with a matinee tomorrow on Saturday 2.30pm.