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Snowflakes in Nutcracker


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#1 innopac

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 02:16 PM

A friend has asked me to ask about the "snowflakes" that often fall on the stage during the snow fairies dance in productions of "The Nutcracker." She is especially interested in terms of the Nureyev Covent Garden production (dvd). What are the snowflakes made of? Do they create a problem for the dancers?

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 05:41 PM

Nowadays, they're mostly expanded styrene plastic beads (Styrofoam). I've seen a lot of different things. They used to be mostly paper, but that was treacherously slippery. For awhile, they went "green" and used compressed starch, but that tended to explode the mouse population in the theater, and not just for Nutcracker. I've even seen detergent suds, made of the same cationic detergent that's in fabric softener sheets, but that mechanism is first, noisy, and second, the suds are actually STICKY! :angel_not:

#3 Helene

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 06:14 PM

In Winter Season Toni Bentley said that in her time at NYCB they were made of paper with fireproofing chemicals. I remember her comment that "they get everywhere," including in the dancers mouths.

#4 Figurante

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 06:23 PM

It really isn't as bad as one might think. It really isn't all that slippery! You just can't wear brand new pointe shoes; then you're just asking for it! Yes, they get in your eyes, ears, eyelashes... never wear gooey lipstick, because they will stick to your lips.. I've had some fly into my mouth, and I have sure I've swallowed them as well. But it wouldn't be Nutcracker without them! There is something so magical about standing at the end of the the snow scene in Balanchine's Nutcracker in a "v" and seeing all of that snow fall as we bouree offstage. It does kind of worry me that I am ingesting fire-proofed paper though, haha!

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 06:25 PM

Considering that the standard fireproofing for all that stuff was and remains borax or boric acid, the latter isn't too bad on the eyes, but in the mouth...PTUI! :icon8:

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:02 AM

...standard fireproofing for all that stuff was and remains borax or boric acid

Oooh, the old ilussional "imperial white magic" is gone now that i have to relate the lovely snowflakes with borax and boric acid.. :icon8: (never occured to me that kind of question...BTW, BT'rs are really stepping out of the box and being creative, ah? :toot: )

#7 bart

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 10:48 AM

Are there ever any debates over the quantity of snow that should be used? I've seen productions in which the dancers almost disappear in the blizzard. I love that. But it must make all the hazards of dancing even worse.

#8 printscess

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 11:22 AM

I think NYCB has the right amount :icon8:
Just enough to make you feel like you're in a winter wonderland and it doesn't obscure the dancers. That scene is my favorite in the ballet. It is so magical!!!

#9 Millie

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:59 PM

About ten years back, a small company I know used potatoe flakes, the kind used to make mashed potatoes. It looked fantastic when viewed from the audience, under the lights. I guess eating these would not be as harmful as some substances. They had huge bags of the stuff ready for each night.

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 03:55 PM

That's the sort of thing I mean by "compressed starch", only the stuff I handled was made from cornstarch made into pellets with boraxo (hydrous borax) in them, making them not slick and also fire retardant. Don't get it wet, though!!! :speechless-smiley-003:

#11 bart

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 04:24 PM

About ten years back, a small company I know used potatoe flakes, the kind used to make mashed potatoes.

My first thought about this was: cockroaches!!! :speechless-smiley-003:

My own favorite is the shiny variety of flake -- looking something like cut-up bits of that soft, stretchy plastic that looks like aluminum foil. Maybe it's just the coating on paper. I can't remember whether it was Miami or Ballet Florida last season, but one of them had a snow storm that really glistened as it swirled!

#12 artist

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:01 PM

in the nycb dvd version it seems they avoid chainees en full pointe and go to demi instead, perhaps to prevent slipping.

#13 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 03:42 AM

And also partially to imitate the eddies of snow which form close to the ground in an actual snowstorm.

#14 Treefrog

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 05:53 AM

Once when my teenage dancer was younger and in the children's cast for the Joffrey's Nuts, I was cleaning out her dance bag and came across what looked like random tiny bits of paper. Just in time she screamed, "Don't throw those out! They're the SNOW!" She and the other kids had collected it from the stage after the curtain fell on Act I.

Bart, I thought of cockroaches too, but in another vein: maybe the boric acid helps control the population?

#15 Gina Ness

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 10:18 PM

It was always fun being the "Snow Queen" for the final Nutcracker of the run during the years I danced with SFB. During the final pose at the end of the Snow Scene, the crew let all the remaining "snow" come tumbling down in a final massive blizzard/avalanche drop!


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