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Taking the "Nutcracker" Seriously or Not


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#31 scorpiodncr

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 11:48 AM

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!

#32 carbro

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 12:36 PM

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.

#33 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 10:35 PM

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:

#34 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 04:14 AM

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.balletale...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!

#35 Figurante

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 09:30 AM

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!

#36 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 10:07 AM

: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.

#37 dirac

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:19 AM

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.

#38 kfw

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Posted Yesterday, 01:20 PM

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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