Michael

Taking the "Nutcracker" Seriously or Not

38 posts in this topic

With the addition of the reika (the sliding thingie), we lose the irritating line of diagonal bourrées, which never, to me, seemed to fit the very big statement of the main theme in the music. Balanchine addressed the old criticism of the ballerina's first dancing coming "far too late" in the original production, and the wheezy tarantella music for the male variation, which had originally been written for a divertissement in the first act party scene which didn't make it to stage. Structure is very important, but it's not sacrosanct. I think that the choice of artists may have influenced Petipa as choreographic planner and Ivanov as actual choreographer not to make Antonietta Dell'Era, the original Sugar Plum Fairy do too much technically, as she may have tired easily. She had been among the first Italians to come to Russia, but in years leading up to Nutcracker, had been doing mostly opera ballets and musical comedies.

Something similar may have gone on with the interpolation of the Entr'acte from Sleeping Beauty after the party scene and leading into the "magic" scene. That lovely violin solo was written especially for Leopold Auer, the concertmaster of the Maryinsky orchestra, but had been cut from that show, along with the Panorama scene, when the machinery for the latter wouldn't work. The addition of the "bridge" adds just enough logic to the story and also provides time to ready the stage transition and assemble the thundering hordes of mice and toys for the battle. Remember, this version was created on a much smaller NYCB than exists today, and some of the "parents" had to double as mice!

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re: NUTCRACKER and the petipa legacy - it's prob. important to note that to any number of ballet followers, etc. the pas de deux from the ballet russe lineage has long been considered IVANOV's work, esp. by those who found extant staging(s) of this pas to be superior to balanchine's own version.

i wish the royal ballet's 'after ivanov' version of the ballet under peter wright's direction hadn't dropped the 'reika' moment w/the cloak (sir walter raleigh-like) so early on. luckily we have it on the performance from '85.

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Excellent points, Mel. The structure and order of certain scores are "sacrosanct," but Balanchine has proven that "Nutcracker" isn't one of them. His insertion of the violin Entr'acte from "Sleeping Beauty" and rearrangement of the grand pas de deux are neither musically nor dramatically jarring - just the opposite. And forgive me if somebody already said this in an earlier post (I haven't read them all) but Arlene Croce once put it best - "The Nutcracker is a child's Christmas or it is nothing." Those who wish it were something else or want to make it something else should pick another score to exercise their imaginations.

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Excellent points, Mel. The structure and order of certain scores are "sacrosanct," but Balanchine has proven that "Nutcracker" isn't one of them.

Yes, Mel, i agree that the point was made with a well developed purposed, and yes, it proved to be succesful once we see all those packed houses of families enjoying his version every year. In a personal way the story is defferent, because i got to knew the score of the "Nutcracker" as a kid way before watching the ballet. My grandfather had an old LP from the 50's at home in which i heard that music over and over in the turntable until the record went bad :lol: Yes, maybe Balanchine didn't take a 'sacrosant" approach to the ballet score. I certainly did.

Arlene Croce once put it best - "The Nutcracker is a child's Christmas or it is nothing."

Arguable. I grew up in a communist Cuba without Christmas official aknowledgment, in a kind of atheist state of mind, and the "Nutcracker" was certainly "something", (sorry, Miss Croce, for not fitting into her description of its supposed valid followers). It was, for me, the ultimate beautiful tale of fantasy and enchantment.

"Those who wish it were something else or want to make it something else should pick another score to exercise their imaginations.

I'll pick back on "Swan Lake" once Christmas is over, EAW :clapping:

:thumbsup:

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If I recall the context of the quote correctly, Croce was referring in general to Nutcrackers that make the story into a coming-of-age piece rather than staying with a basic child’s-eye perspective.

It's nice that this venerable thread has so much life in it. Hope to read more!

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Hello all. I am a third-year (final year) BA Dance Education student at Royal Academy of Dance/University of Surrey in London, UK. I'm originally from Southern California (how I got here is a very long story I'll reserve for another thread). I've stumbled upon this thread in the process of doing research for my dissertation (AKA senior thesis). As a former Chinese/Spanish/Arabian/Mouse King/Party Guest/Drosselmeyer myself (and a few others I've willfully blocked from my memory) with various regional ballet companies in SoCal, I thought Nutcracker was a ballet I was thoroughly familiar with...my research so far has proved me wrong! Some of the posts already in this thread have been helpful in focusing some of what I hope discuss.

The main questions I am attempting to tackle in my writing are: Who is the real protagonist of the Nutracker story, and what is his/her struggle and resulting personal growth? And: How can the protagonist's struggle and growth speak to a 21st century North American ballet audience?

The productions I am mainly referring to are: Balanchine/NYCB, Baryshnikov/ABT (NOT ABT's current production), Joffrey (a personal favorite), and a bit of Wright/Royal Ballet (both his older and newer versions).

Some of the key texts I'm referring to are by Jennifer Fisher, Roland John Wiley, Selma Jeanne Cohen, and Edwin Denby, among others. I also am using a new translation of both Hoffman and Dumas, by Joachim Neugroschel.

Any helpful suggestions, either in terms of issues and debates, or pointing me to research/writings, would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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I can't offer sources, I'm afraid, but I expect some of our more scholarly-oriented members can help you.

Hello all. I am a third-year (final year) BA Dance Education student at Royal Academy of Dance/University of Surrey in London, UK. I'm originally from Southern California (how I got here is a very long story I'll reserve for another thread).
Our Welcome forum would be the perfect place for that! Hope to hear from you.

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If I recall the context of the quote correctly, Croce was referring in general to Nutcrackers that make the story into a coming-of-age piece rather than staying with a basic child’s-eye perspective.

God,but what's the whole drama about Clara and sexual awakening and all that..?!?! Honestly, sometimes i feel lost and blown out when i read all about the apparent sexual implications of this or that version and so on, ...even poor Freud getting into the whole dilemma! I'm telling you guys, i grew up with adult ballerinas portraying Clara the child, and it wasn't different at all from the ilusion of, let's say, Lisse portrayed by Mme. Alonso in her 50's (with a convincing effect, right bart?)

It's nice that this venerable thread has so much life in it. Hope to read more!

Oooh, you certainly will dirac, if it depends on me!. Remember that i don't acknowledge the ballet semi-official "seasonal" portrayal

:clapping:

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Hi, Scorpio, and welcome to Ballet Talk:

Here's a writing on Nutcracker as a whole - mostly on the original production - some years ago on our progenitor site, Ballet Alert!:

http://www.balletalert.com/ballets/19th%20...y/Nuts/Nuts.htm

Click around in there. There's a select bibliography, videography, and discography (now, alas, rather dated), but the information still holds up. If you want to copy and paste passages to this thread for discussion, fine and dandy!

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In lieu of this subject, I would like to add a little story about Suzanne Farrell's interpretation of a "nutty nutcracker" which she told all of us while I was training with her in her Cedar Island summer program almost 10 years go.

She said a dancer came up to her and asked "What are you going to do for the show tonight?"

Suzanne: "what do you mean?"

Dancer: "You know for the nutty nutcracker!"

Suzanne: (rolling eyes) "Fine, I'll do four pirouettes in the pas de deux."

And of course, she did!

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:FIREdevil: Ulp! For those not familiar, the New Year's Eve performance of NYCB's Nutz is sort of a closing night follies. The snowflakes sometimes come on wearing earmuffs or mittens. Once they suggested galoshes, but this was forbidden. One year, Mr. Balanchine was Drosselmeyer, and handed one of the parents a little yellow rubber duckie, instructing her to see that it was passed to a parent on the far side of the stage. While the kids mimed and danced, there was this "telephone game" going on amongst the adults, with an occasional squeak as the duckie went from one to the next. It's a good add, but let's not stop considering the show as a whole, and the implications of many different productions of it.

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The main questions I am attempting to tackle in my writing are: Who is the real protagonist of the Nutracker story, and what is his/her struggle and resulting personal growth? And: How can the protagonist's struggle and growth speak to a 21st century North American ballet audience?

Welcome, Scorpiodncr. I hope you share some of your thoughts with us as your dissertation proceeds. Best of luck.

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I’ve been reading Jennifer Fisher’s excellent Nutcracker Nation, and for a break I read Edwin Denby’s essay, Meaning in the Nutcracker. Denby writes:

Nowadays, with psychoanalysis practically a household remedy, grown-ups take the nonsense of fairytales more seriously than children. We call them narratives in free association and solve them like crossword puzzles. The Nutcracker is an easy one – the title gives it away. … we see that the suite of dances presents an intelligible association series, operated with unconscious sexual symbols; that the piece makes sense enough as a subconscious reverie beginning with a cruel sexual symbol, the nutcracker.”

This makes me laugh, but I’m willing to be convinced there’s something to it. Clearly Clara/Marie is attracted to Drosselmeier’s nephew, in a way that’s probably new to her. But while romantic fantasy/sexual awakening is one thing, I’m not even sure how to describe the other in terms that make the story coherent. Drosselmeier gives Clara a doll that symbolizes, er, something or other-breaking? Why? And how would she possibly understand that meaning anyhow? Or if we say that the symbolism operates in the narrative although Clara is unaware of it, how does that fit with the happy ending, the suggestion that the two will have a happy future together as adults?

Denby seems to answer this and say that this symbolism was understood to be a subtext of the Hoffman story, noting that Ivanov “would find my account of his ballet absurd,” but that Hoffman was “a master of the free association device” that was “as familiar to educated persons in 1820 as it is to us, and practiced by them with more sense of humor.” But I’m not sure I understand that last sentence. Is he saying that seeing the psychosexual symbolism, which he earlier seems to treat seriously, is akin to making a ribald joke?

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