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Favorite Balanchine Sugar Plum Fairies


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#1 MakarovaFan

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 06:12 AM

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.

#2 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 06:28 AM

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.

#3 Helene

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 10:33 AM

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.

#4 carbro

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 04:27 PM

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.

#5 oberon

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 06:28 PM

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!)

#6 Ari

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 05:28 AM

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?"

#7 tempusfugit

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 10:15 PM

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.

#8 kfw

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 08:11 PM

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.

#9 Siegelife

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 03:48 PM

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

#10 richard53dog

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 04:14 PM

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

#11 Aurora916

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 07:48 PM

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

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:54 AM

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.

#13 richard53dog

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 08:38 AM

Current favorites: Jennifer Ringer and Wendy Whelan

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

#14 MakarovaFan

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 03:54 PM

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: .

#15 bart

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:27 PM

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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