MakarovaFan

Favorite Balanchine Sugar Plum Fairies

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In the 50 years since George Balanchine's THE NUTCRACKER premiered, many dancers have danced the lead ballerina role. Which ballerinas are your favorite Sugar Plum Fairies?

I must say Melissa Hayden because she was the first one I saw in 1971. My other favorite was Suzanne Farrell who I saw dance SPF in 1986.

How I would have loved to see Violette Verdy, Allegra Kent and Patty McBride dance the role.

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I saw Violette Verdy and Helgi Tomasson do the roles, but in Chicago, in Ruth Page's Nutcracker. However, as guests, they did the Balanchine choreography; this was back in 1971, so I can't say I recall a great deal, except that she was brilliant.

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Lourdes Lopez, which surprised me, considering the main "competition" was McBride, Nichols, Ashley, Fugate, Calegari, and Kistler, but I'd always liked her in Maria Tallchief roles. And Stephanie Saland, whom I loved in everything she danced. (If we were talking Dew Drops, I'd have a different list!)

I wish I had seen dancers from the 50's-70's, though. Not having seen Verdy live is my big heart-breaker.

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Darci Kistler's debut was mind-blowing. There she was, at the start of Act II, welcoming children who were quite close to her in age (esp. the Candy Canes), not yet secure in her stage authority. It was so sweet.

Another favorite was Judy Fugate, and I especially enjoyed it when she danced it with Peter Boal (even if he was a smidge small for her in these roles) -- the former Marie and former young Prince.

Of the current crop, Jenifer Ringer is my favorite. She has the lyricism and the magic to keep it fresh for me.

I look forward to Ashley Bouder's.

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Oddly enough, though I have been going to NYCB for over a quarter century, I only saw their NUTCRACKER once (with Merrill Ashley) until seven years ago when I began going to 5 or 6 NUTCRACKERs per season. Kyra made a beautiful impression in the role, and of the current SPFs I am very taken by Whelan and Ringer, though they are very different. And Ansanelli this year delivered a really beautiful performance in the role.

I have to admit that I really loved Baryshnikov's version at ABT several years ago and in addition to Kirkland, Tcherkassky and Leslie Browne - all wonderful - I took special pleasure in Natalia Makarova's interpretation. I loved the staging of the pas de deux as a dance drama, where the ballerina hovers between the security of Drosselmeyer's affection and her new-found attraction to the Prince.

This production also featured an ending that I loved, with Clara (or was she Marie?) waking from her dream. (Sorry to have gone off the Balanchine topic!)

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Darci Kistler's debut was mind-blowing.  There she was, at the start of Act II, welcoming children who were quite close to her in age (esp. the Candy Canes), not yet secure in her stage authority.  It was so sweet.

Yes, I remember that. It was a Saturday matinee and she danced with Peter Martins -- the difference in age was striking at the time. Kistler was fascinating to watch in those days because she often made mistakes, forgot the choreography, but she coped with it without sacrificing the music -- that is, when she had to scramble to get back on track she never placed making herself look good at the expense of the music, but instinctively responded to what was happening musically even if it made her look a bit awkward. So many dancers would have put themselves first, and the music/choreography second.

I also remember a very early Kistler performance, either her first or her second, in which she perservered though a number of mistakes (they were so endearing, they had the effect of highlighting her spectacular talent) and, at the end of the adagio, released Martins's hand, turned into full-fledged attitude (so many Sugar Plums just sort of lift the arm, without the leg bending), took an Aurora-like balance and just held it. Up in Standing Room, we were all screaming.

Which reminds me, it was Suzanne Farrell's musicality that first showed me the kinship between Sugar Plum's adagio and the Rose Adagio, both in the music and the choreography.

Memories flood back . . . an early Nichols performance in the days when she was just learning to command the stage and act like a ballerina. She projected a warmth and involvement with her surroundings that was (and is) very unusual for NYCB. At the beginning of the second act, when she led the angels around the stage, she turned to smile tenderly at them, and the first little girl was so startled that she stopped dead in her tracks. You could just see the balloon over her head going, "What the hell is she doing?"

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Nichols, without a doubt, although the best single Balanchine Nutcracker I ever saw had Ashley as Sugar Plum and Nichols as Dewdrop (embarrassment of riches beyond belief).

Ari, I too saw a Nichols performance of Sugar Plum with that kind of warmth and grace-- later than the period you mention. it was lapidary.

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That's very good news about Ringer, thank you. She's dancing the role with her husband for a local company in Williamsburg, Va this weekend, and she's the reason we're going.

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Gelsey Kirkland is the ultimate for me. She put so much passion into her performance. I never get tired of watching her. :)

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Gelsey Kirkland is the ultimate for me. She put so much passion into her performance.

I liked Kirkland a lot as the Sugar Plum too(although I really preferred her as the Dewdrop)

From back in that era, I also liked Hayden, McBride, and particularly Verdy.

From this season's batch, I liked Ringer's very charming Sugar Plum very much.

Richard

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I am a student at the Nutmeg Conservatory in Torrington, CT... while we were doing our 9 productions of the Nutcracker, Alexandra Ansanelli came for two of our preformances to dance the Sugar Plum with Damian Woetzel. And they were absoletely amazing, it was espically exciting because they danced there Balanchine version with our very vagonia ballet. Just to have them in the same theather as us was breath taking, both were so nice and didn't mind talking and helping them out backstage... it was a Nutcracker i would never forget!!! :D

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Which ballerinas are your favorite Sugar Plum Fairies?

Due to the specification on the thread's title-(Balanchine)-, the range of dancers to pick from I have is quite narrow, but I do remember very well when Deanna Seay danced it. She was very regal, and radiated a serene sense of command over her kingdom. Jennifer Kronemberg has been also beautiful to watch in the role, very feminine and delicate.

Moving a little beyond Mr. B's domains, then I have to mention Lorna Feijoo-(Boston Ballet) as my all time Sugar Plum. She was just PERFECTION.

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Current favorites: Jennifer Ringer and Wendy Whelan

Classic favorites: Violette Verdy, Melissa Hayden, and Pat McBride

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In the 50 years since George Balanchine's THE NUTCRACKER premiered, many dancers have danced the lead ballerina role. Which ballerinas are your favorite Sugar Plum Fairies?

I must say Melissa Hayden because she was the first one I saw in 1971. My other favorite was Suzanne Farrell who I saw dance SPF in 1986.

Melissa was my first SPF in 1971 and she was magical through the eyes of a 5 year old. And my other favorite was Suzanne Farrell who I also saw dance SPF in 1986.

I also saw Heather Watts dance SPF in the early '80's, and while I was never a fan of her dancing, her whole performance was lovely.

How I would have loved to see Verdy's SPF -- she must have been glorious :bow: .

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Makarova Fan, I also remember Hayden's SPF -- though I was considerably older than 5. :speechless-smiley-003: Hayden's performances tend to stick in my memory more than those of many of her contemporaries at NYCB because she was my first "favorite" ballerina.

I wish I could recall whether I ever saw Verdy in live performance. Somehow, all those years of Nutcrackers tend to blend, and I admit that I often focused on small peripheral details rather than the set pieces.

While Googling, I came across the following listing of Sugar Plum Fairy tv appearances. (IMDB.com)

http://www.imdb.com/...cter/ch0085070/

Hayden danced SPF in a German filming with Villella (as Nutcracker/Prince and Patricia McBride (Clara). Date given is 1964, though I'm not sure whether that was the film date or the date of the U.S. television version:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0221445/

There I found that there was a 1961 Bell Telephone Hour Christmas show in which the Sugar Plum Fairy featured, apparently out of context:. Verdy partnered by Edward Villella.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0521097/

There's also 1958 Playhouse 90 version of the Balanchine Nutcracker with Diana Adams !!!! That's the one with Balanchine as Drosselmeier. Oh, for the chance to see an amazing cast of soloists, including Adams, Allegra Kent (Dewdrop), Arthur Mitchell (Coffee), and Villella (this time as Candy Cane). This was around the time of my first City Center Nutcracker, so I might have seen the same cast -- but I don't remember. :wallbash:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0675647/

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My favorite Sugar Plum Fairies were Heather Watts, who always seemed to have a nice rapport with the kids, Judith Fugate, who was golden, and Lourdes Lopez, whose best roles I think were Tallchief roles (like SPF, Firebird, "Allegro Brillante").

I once saw Kyra Nichols do an alternative version of the SPF variation, but I couldn't tell if it was the one Denby described in a review of the original production.

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There's also 1958 Playhouse 90 version of the Balanchine Nutcracker with Diana Adams !!!! That's the one with Balanchine as Drosselmeier. Oh, for the chance to see an amazing cast of soloists, including Adams, Allegra Kent (Dewdrop), Arthur Mitchell (Coffee), and Villella (this time as Candy Cane).

I did see that cast but was too young and inexperienced to remember how Diana Adams danced Sugar Plum. Eddie Villella was the iconic Candy Cane, and I saw him dance it many times. Mitchell was so coffee that I was convinced no one else could dance it! That was pre-Govrin, of course, and then she became a sublime interpreter of the role. I saw Balanchine perform Drosselmeyer several times. For me (and many others), the ultimate Drosselmeyer was Shaun O'Brien!

I've seen probably all of the early SPF's, from Maria Tallchief to Suzanne Farrell, with Patty McBride, Violette Verdy, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, etc. in-between. Why then does my memory always take me back to Farrell first? I suppose because she was indelible to me in every role she danced.

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Hayden danced SPF in a German filming with Villella (as Nutcracker/Prince and Patricia McBride (Clara). Date given is 1964, though I'm not sure whether that was the film date or the date of the U.S. television version:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0221445/

There I found that there was a 1961 Bell Telephone Hour Christmas show in which the Sugar Plum Fairy featured, apparently out of context:. Verdy partnered by Edward Villella.

kfw notes that the 1961 Bell Telephone Hour Nut is available from amazon.

The German film with Hayden/Villella/McBride is also available from amazon (looks like a third party vendor but the price isn't bad)

http://www.amazon.com/Nutcracker-1965-TV-Special/dp/B002VA5A0W/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1284773615&sr=1-2

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Thanks, kfw, for the link to Dale's article in Danceviewtimes, and marga and richard for the info on commercial availability.

I've seen probably all of the early SPF's, from Maria Tallchief to Suzanne Farrell, with Patty McBride, Violette Verdy, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, etc. in-between. Why then does my memory always take me back to Farrell first? I suppose because she was indelible to me in every role she danced.

Marga, you triggered a memory: Peter Martins' farewell performance in the early 80s. It was Nutcracker, and Farrell was the Sugar Plum Fairy. Farrell on that evening was especially gorgeous, conveying great warmth and even emotionality, not always the case in her dancing. I guess this was due in part to the occasion -- the final pas of a great ballet partnership.

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Oh, for the chance to see an amazing cast of soloists, including Adams, Allegra Kent (Dewdrop), Arthur Mitchell (Coffee), . . .

. . .. Mitchell was so coffee that I was convinced no one else could dance it!

I had no idea a man had ever danced Coffee. What did he wear? Can anyone remember other men in the role?

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. . .. Mitchell was so coffee that I was convinced no one else could dance it!

I had no idea a man had ever danced Coffee. What did he wear? Can anyone remember other men in the role?

There's a photo of Mitchell (with the 4 parrot children) in Dale's Danceviewtimes article. I had never seen this before, and frankly did not remember that Mitchell danced this bare-chested, something much less common in the early 60s than today. Scroll down to the 4th photo. It gives a good idea of just how charismatic Mitchell was and how contemporary his "look" would appear even today.

http://danceviewtime...er/01/nuts2.htm

Francisco Moncion was the original Coffee. The kids were dropped and Coffee turned into a woman (Gloria Govrin) for the revised NY State Theater production in '64.

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Marga, you triggered a memory: Peter Martins' farewell performance in the early 80s. It was Nutcracker, and Farrell was the Sugar Plum Fairy. Farrell on that evening was especially gorgeous, conveying great warmth and even emotionality, not always the case in her dancing. I guess this was due in part to the occasion -- the final pas of a great ballet partnership.

That was on a Monday. They did a warm-up for the finale the Saturday night before, which I was able to see.

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....Scroll down to the 4th photo. It gives a good idea of just how charismatic Mitchell was and how contemporary his "look" would appear even today.

http://danceviewtime...er/01/nuts2.htm

Francisco Moncion was the original Coffee. The kids were dropped and Coffee turned into a woman (Gloria Govrin) for the revised NY State Theater production in '64.

I'll never forget the hookah. I would've mentioned it in my last post, but didn't want to veer too far off the subject of SPFs. Now that we have taken a bit of a branch-off, I feel free to say that the hookah fascinated me for years because I didn't know what it was, only that is was exotic.

Mitchell would partake of it as he began his solo. I have a fuzzy memory of him being brought in, sitting in the middle of the carpet, by the children. Or did the children bring the carpet in and Mitchell entered and sat on it to smoke? I can't imagine how the kids/parrots could have carried or dragged him to center stage. Does anyone remember how this went?

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I have a fuzzy memory of him being brought in, sitting in the middle of the carpet, by the children. Or did the children bring the carpet in and Mitchell entered and sat on it to smoke? I can't imagine how the kids/parrots could have carried or dragged him to center stage. Does anyone remember how this went?

I've forgotten, too. I would have had him walk in glamourously, followed by his little attendants with their carpet. But ... since I'm no Balanchine, I'll have leave the choreographic specifics a little vague.

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