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Balanchine's The Nutcracker videovery silly question!

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#1 perky


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Posted 15 December 2004 - 06:00 AM

I can't believe something this insignificant is bothering me, but there it is!

I've always wondered about the shoes the dancer in the Arabian dance (in this case Wendy Whelan) wears during her solo. Most of the dance is on flat or demi-pointe and it looks almost as if she is barefoot. At first I thought she was wearing ballet slippers but she does go on pointe very briefly. Is it a deshanked or very old worn in pointe shoe?
In the finale of the ballet she has clearly changed into a standard shiny pointe shoe.

#2 BalletNut


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Posted 15 December 2004 - 02:25 PM

More questions for the NYCB crowd: In the part between the battle scene and the snowflake waltz, does Marie's bed actually fly in the stage production, or is this just something they did for the video? And how does the stage production treat the "Sleeping Beauty" part? Am I correct in assuming they don't do a video montage of Marie's "memories" of the party scene? :dry:

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 02:43 PM

Ballet Nut - the bed moves slowly about the stage with Marie sleeping on it during the Snow adagio.

During the entr'acte music from Sleeping Beauty Marie slips back to the parlor in her nightgown to check on the Nutcracker doll, then falls asleep on the sofa. Her mother comes down, walking in front of a scrim (assumedly in the hall) and then goes into the parlor to find Marie. She wraps her shawl around her and leaves her alone to sleep.

#4 Helene



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Posted 15 December 2004 - 02:48 PM

There's a kid under the bed, which is on rollers, and s/he makes it move. I remember in Christopher d'Amboise's memoir that he reflected on the vissicitudes of the stage life when he noted that last year's Prince was this year's Bed Boy.

#5 Dale


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Posted 15 December 2004 - 03:03 PM

Don't they move the bed electronically now (with somebody underneath in case the thing doesn't work)? I seem to remember that from an article a few years ago about the secret behind-the-scene stuff of the Nutcracker.

#6 oberon


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Posted 15 December 2004 - 05:57 PM

I think the Arabian is danced in old, soft slippers dyed a skin-tone. I do not recall any moment in the solo where she is on pointe...

But in the finale, she's on pointe. Which brings up another question: in her solo during the finale (in the film version) Wendy does these pirouettes which culminate with the leg whipping out into arabesque - sorry, I don't know what this step is called - I think she does three of them. I have seen other Arabians do this also, but this season so far I have seen 3 girls in the role and none of them have stretched the turns into arabesque, they finish in attitude. The flash to arabesque is really exciting. Would this be a difficult step to do? (Wendy makes it look easy...but then...she's Wendy). Would the dancer eliminate such a passage if it proved too tricky? Or did someone get injured trying it and they changed it to be safe? Anyone know the passage I'm referring to? Anyone seen it done the "Wendy way" lately? Could it be Wendy added it and others have tried to emulate it? I seem to remember Dena Abergel doing it with the arabesque. Or have I seen too many NUTCRACKERS and I'm imagining the whole thing?

#7 ballerina1023



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Posted 15 December 2004 - 06:25 PM

I agree with Oberon- the dancer wears an older pair of pointe shoes (not sure if they're shankless) dyed a deep tan color.

The only part of the solo where the dancer goes en pointe, as I remember it, is toward the end... the dancer does a jump bringing the leg up in a high attitude behind her, she then closes to fifth position and quickly goes into releve and turns to perform the jump again. I hope I explained that clearly enough. This is followed by her walking in a circle around the stage, then going into the final split, etc, if that helps you place it.

And yes, Oberon, I know exactly what part you're refering to in the coda. In almost every live performace I've seen, the turns end in an attitude, not in arabesque as Wendy executes them in the video. I remember one performace where I did see the arabesque... it might have been Deanna McBrearty dancing, but I'm not absolutely sure. Judging from my relatively limited experience as a dancer, I don't think the turns are terribly difficult to do. What might be the problem is the speed- keeping the leg in attitude instead of arabesque might make it a bit easier to bring it back in and start again with another pique turn.

While we're on the topic of oddities and special effects in the Nutcracker, I've always wondered how the young prince's "nutcracker" attire is quickly ripped off of him to reveal the suit he wears in the second act. Does anyone know how this is accomplished? Also, I know this is a trademark of the grand pas de deux, but how exactly is the Sugar Plum Fairy pulled across the stage in arabesque?

#8 oberon


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Posted 15 December 2004 - 06:40 PM

Ballerina 1023, thank you for clarifying the arabesque vs. attitude finish to those Arabian pirouettes. Your description is excellent and I think you may be right about speed being the key element. I have to say, the attitudes are nice but the arabesques give it a really flashy quality.

I am not sure how they wisk the Nutcracker costume off the Prince, but I do know that the ballerina "floats" in that arabesque by stepping on a small metal plate attached to some sort of wired pulley mechanism and the cavalier "pulls" her across the stage. I have to admit that the first time I saw it (Merrill Ashley was my first SPF - lucky me!) I was dumbfounded. I was seated in the orchestra for that performance and had no idea how the effect was achieved. Now that I'm poor and relegated to 4th Ring, I can see her aim her pointe for the magic spot on that metal plate. Apparently, if you are off by a centimetre or two it can be a bumpy ride. I think someone here recently wrote about seeing one SPF miss the plate altogether or something???

#9 rg


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Posted 15 December 2004 - 08:01 PM

re: the moving bed, there is no electronic mechanism at all involved in the movement of marie's bed to the snow-laden fir forest; it's a dance student crawling around on his knee-padded knees. for years he was known as 'bed boy' to some of those around the company. during his particular student years at SAB kevin hagen - then kevin higgenbotham - was this 'operator' and one co. follower nicknamed him 'kevin bed'
i understand btw that the muliple revolutions now favored by the 'bed boy's is something mr. b. was not happy about; i think he corrected one over-active/zealous bed boy to cool his eagerness and simply to revolve the bed once before stopping to await the little prince's transformation and awakening kiss.

#10 oberon


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Posted 16 December 2004 - 05:14 AM

Mention of Deanna McBrearty is enough to give me pre-Christmas depression...Santa, could you please bring Deanna back, along with Samantha, Monique, Eva, Aesha, Lindy, Riolama, Emily Coates...and Helene, too?? And the Tracey sisters? And Robert Tewsley? And Robert Wersinger, while you're at it?? And several others...I have a list...

I always assumed the bed was automated...I can't believe anyone can crawl that fast and that accurately! I did see it collide with one of the hanging set pieces once but I assumed it was a technical error.

#11 Ari


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Posted 16 December 2004 - 05:15 AM

Re the Nutcracker prince's costume transformation: I have no definite knowledge of this, so if someone who does will jump in I'd be grateful, but from the audience it has always looked to me that the prince comes onstage dressed in his pink satin costume and holding in front of him a lifesized replica of the Nutcracker's costume, which he then flings into the wings. The Nutcracker's costume has always looked stiff and artificial to me, so I think it's on a board of some kind.

Just a guess, though. I'd appreciate it if someone who knows how it works would enlighten us. :dry:

#12 oberon


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Posted 16 December 2004 - 05:32 AM

Ari, I think the Nutcracker costume is on some sort of flimsy wire frame...the boy steps very cautiously & slowly sideways onto the stage and it appears that someone offstage pulls a wire and it flies off.

#13 pugbee



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Posted 16 December 2004 - 06:32 AM

You're right, Oberon. The prince's costume is only a "front," attached loosely like a paper doll's costume. The stage hand holds the wire while the prince ooches out on to stage, then gives a mighty "yank" on the right music!

#14 AmandaNYC


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Posted 16 December 2004 - 07:11 AM

Re: the Coffee solo in the coda.

There are definitely two different sets of choreography for that segments. Different dancers seem to choose which choreography to do. I have always thought the options were there since one is more difficult than the other, and Balanchine often adjusted choreography to the talents of the different dancers.

I don't remember positively who has done which, but I am pretty sure Abergel has done the harder one. Reichlen, who is the only Coffee I have seen this season, I think tried the harder one out during one of the performances. With her long limbs, I think she looks best with the attitude poses.

I personally think the harder version always seems to look a bit awkward even with someone like Wendy doing it. The one with the attitude poses just seems more in keeping with the role.


#15 tempusfugit


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Posted 16 December 2004 - 07:53 AM

The ballerina's "float" (on the moving plate) was instituted considerably later on; the original climax was Tallchief in a sustained unsupported balance in arabesque, I think. seems to me the moving "float" first appeared in the early Seventies?
Agree with Oberon that the arabesque version of Coffee's coda passage is more brilliant. I'd bet anything that Gloria Govrin, on whom the solo was made, did the more difficult steps; she had better double sauts de basque than most men!

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