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Favorite Balanchine Sugar Plum Fairies


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#16 Helene

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:43 PM

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.

#17 kfw

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:53 PM

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/


That one is commercially available.

And here's a 2005 Danceviewtimes piece on Playhouse 90 and other shows: A celebration of George Balanchine: Selected Television Work.

#18 Marga

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:13 PM

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.

#19 richard53dog

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:37 PM

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.co...84773615&sr=1-2

#20 bart

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:39 PM

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.

#21 kfw

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:47 PM


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?

#22 bart

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:59 PM


. . .. 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.

#23 Helene

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 07:09 PM

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.

#24 Marga

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 04:11 PM

....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?

#25 bart

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 05:02 PM

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.

#26 richard53dog

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 05:15 PM


....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?


On the Playhouse 90 version, Clara and the Prince open a pair of doors and Coffee is on the rug with the 4 children/parrots. The parrots help Coffee prepare a snack for Clara and the Prince, some sugar dipped in coffee.

Coffee gets up and moves forward on the stage so he has a large open space with the rug at the back of the set. He does part of his solo and goes back to the rug, which again fills most of the tv screen. One of the parrots hands him the hookah and he takes a hit. Smoke rises up in the foreground. He stands and dances some more on the rug and then lays down and goes to sleep. Clara and the Prince get up and leave the scene , moving on to the next sweet.

All in all pretty unusual stuff for 1958 network TV.

#27 kfw

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 05:19 PM

Thanks, bart, Marga, and richard53dog, for those memories and descriptions. They'll make Balanchine's Coffee much richer -- no pun intended, ouch -- the next time I see it.

#28 canbelto

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 05:33 PM

The best ones I've seen have been Sara Mearns, Wendy Whelan, and Ashley Bouder.

#29 bart

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 06:05 PM

I've seen 5 of the Miami City Ballet Sugar Plums, including Kronenberg, Catoya, and Seay. but have to say that the one who impressed me the most was the youngest and least experienced, Jeanette Delgado. This was clearly a work in progress, but I was astonished about how mature and thoughtful her approach to the role already was.

I'm basing this on a number of elements:

-- the precision and delicacy of her first solo (to the playing of the celesta; and

-- the spontaneity and genuineness of her reactions to the little prince's miming of the story of the dangers he and Marie have faced, and his account of Marie's bravery. (Many ballerinas lack conviction in this crucial aspect of the role.)

-- the unexpected (to me) majesty she achieved in the pas de deux. (It must have helped to be dancing with Rolando Sarabia. What a partnership that might have developed into had Sarabia remained with the company!)


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