MinkusPugni

Nutcracker

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To ME :excl: adults in children's roles never convey the innocence that children can. They feel fake and, in general, they lack dignity. But that's just me.

While I am firmly on the side of letting children be children, I have to say that one of the most touching moments in my Nut experience was in 1980, the moment when the SPF leads the Act II children into a line to welcome Marie and her Prince. The SPF was the 16-year-old Darci Kistler, closer in age to the juvies in the cast than many of her professional peers. She had an adult radiance but a childlike innocence -- and still a slight awkwardness in walking.

I've seen the PNB on TV, and the designs were wonderful, but I was bothered by their failure (and the choreography's) to suggest the dances' nationalities, which are so clearly in Tchaikovsky's music.

Balanchine is also my gold standard, but I haven't seen very many professional-level Nuts besides NYCB and ABT's Baryshnikov version. The ABT was widely praised for Baryshnikov's staging of Vainonen's Snowflakes, but I didn't care for that choreography. What I did admire about that staging was Baryshnikov's ability to bridge the acts by repeating patterns from the one into the other. It was a reaction I had at the time, but ask me now and without the aid of video, I'd be hard pressed to say exactly where.

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In Nuremberg?

:excl:

In Cuba, 1909. My grandmother was born three years later, in 1912, her mother being 15. They were 11 brothers and sisters. At one point mother and daughter were pregnant at the same time, the mother giving birth even before the daughter.

BTW...why Nuremberg...?

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BTW...why Nuremberg...?
Setting of Nutcracker.

The internet is full of sites for geneaology. Let's try to stay close to the topic.

Thanks.

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BTW...why Nuremberg...?
Setting of Nutcracker.

The internet is full of sites for geneaology. Let's try to stay close to the topic.

Thanks.

Oh, sorry for the inconvenience. My point being the fact that a ballet dancer who's in his/her teens has a wide range of possibilities to be convincing just by "acting" the part, given the fact that he or she can be viewed either as an adult or a kid depending on his/her physique and the viewer's own perception of adulthood.

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I love the Balanchine version. I was about to write "unequivocally," except that I've never cared for the extended sequence with Marie's bed going round and round the stage. I find the rest completely magical and was able to convert one self-described ballet hater into a Balanchine lover by taking him to a performance of Mr. B's Nutcracker. When a grown man turns to you in the middle of the battle scene with a seven-year-old's look of enchantment on his face, you know that the ballet's "done it" for him.

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Here are a couple of clips from Act I of the Cuban version that I often refer to, which "does it" for me. The first clips shows Clara and the Nutcracker dancing just before the Snow Scene. The second one is the beginning of Act II, including the Nutcracker's "mime".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKvVpKHfvtM

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However, remember, Stanislava Belinskaya was 12. Know who she was? The original Clara. Infantilizing adults is not a comfortable evening's watching, for me.

I definitely agree about not having adults play children... but isn't infantilizing adults something we do in ballet literally all the time. Aren't some of the great parts in ballet infantilized adults? Swanhilda...? Lise...? Aurora...? Giselle...?

Just thought I'd bring up the point.

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However, remember, Stanislava Belinskaya was 12. Know who she was? The original Clara. Infantilizing adults is not a comfortable evening's watching, for me.

I definitely agree about not having adults play children... but isn't infantilizing adults something we do in ballet literally all the time. Aren't some of the great parts in ballet infantilized adults? Swanhilda...? Lise...? Aurora...? Giselle...?

Yes, we do...to the extent that we don't care anymore how "young" is, in the libretto the "young" Giselle, for example. I bet that she's no more than 14 or 15...hence...a kid, and then I don't think non 14 y.o would be allowed to interpret Giselle in a respectable Company

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Back to the topic - Balanchine's version of The Nutcracker is the only major version I have seen live, and it is enchanting in every possible sense of the word. Both the Pennsylvania Ballet and NYCB productions are glorious. It wouldn't be overstating it to say that my most cherished memories of a 5 year stay in the US are of Balanchine's The Nutcracker. :sweatingbullets:

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I love the Balanchine version. I was about to write "unequivocally," except that I've never cared for the extended sequence with Marie's bed going round and round the stage. I find the rest completely magical and was able to convert one self-described ballet hater into a Balanchine lover by taking him to a performance of Mr. B's Nutcracker. When a grown man turns to you in the middle of the battle scene with a seven-year-old's look of enchantment on his face, you know that the ballet's "done it" for him.

That bed shtick is the source of a lot of controversy. I don't have as much a problem with it as I do with the SNOW that starts to fall in the parlor before the tree and the French doors fly out. Suddenly, there's a big hole in the roof?

Volcanohunter describes a situation I went through with my own father, who went to ballets and operas and plays, and knew all about "stage magic", but at the transformations in Act I, tears were rolling down his cheeks. "I've seen shows before, but this...this is SO MUCH! Better than the movies!" He even gave a startled "OH!" when the sleigh flies out at the end.

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Back to the topic - Balanchine's version of The Nutcracker is the only major version I have seen live, and it is enchanting in every possible sense of the word.

I saw my first Nutcracker at Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and it still appears to me "enchanting in every possible sense of the word". :)

It was Grigorovich's version where Mary and Nutcracker are danced by adults.

GB Nutcracker was the first ballet I saw when I came to New York - I was very surprised (if not shocked) to see no dancing in Act I. I was wondering if this is going to be like that for the rest of the ballet and was thinking about leaving. :sweatingbullets:

Over time I grew into loving GB Nutcracker, but I still find Act I quite boring and feel that majical music is being "waisted"

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But remember, Act I before the transformation is set in "the real world", and the dancers dance real, if idealized versions of social dances of the mid-nineteenth century. There is much mime in Act I, intercut with dance steps. It's part of the production sensibility of the original Nutcracker, and when you stop to think, much of the Classico-Romantic repertoire. Giselle dances and mimes simultaneously, so does the Sylphide. Replacing mime with technical dancing does many works a grave disservice, in my opinion.

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But remember, Act I before the transformation is set in "the real world", and the dancers dance real, if idealized versions of social dances of the mid-nineteenth century. There is much mime in Act I, intercut with dance steps. It's part of the production sensibility of the original Nutcracker, and when you stop to think, much of the Classico-Romantic repertoire. Giselle dances and mimes simultaneously, so does the Sylphide. Replacing mime with technical dancing does many works a grave disservice, in my opinion.

I agree - but where is the dancing AFTER transformation, before the Snow? :sweatingbullets:

Volcanohunter already mentioned Mary's bed going round and round on stage..

I am wondering - is there a version where Mary is being danced by a child before transformation and as adult dancer after?

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Remember, there are two major transformations - the part where the tree grows (Clara/Masha shrinks), and the part where the stage becomes the fir forest. With each, we get farther and farther into fantasy until we are in the realm of Fulltime Magic! The Battle with the Mice is a highly choreographed melée, and the original score even has visual cues written on it, apparently by Drigo. "Mouse picks up soldier. Turns him upside down. Eats him." I wish that section of what Ivanov staged had actually been notated, but having the cues is valuable. There was even apparently a bit of business where the Nutcracker organizes some of the toys and dolls into army surgeons and nurses. I'd purely LOVE to see what he did with that!

Petipa wrote the choreographic script for the work, and he shrewdly made the pre-transformation in the world of the mundane. Originally, he had an idea for more than just the Harlequin and Columbine dolls and the soldier or devil - depending on the version - as divertissement (there was even supposed to be a cancan - the tarantella from this section ended up as the male variation in the pas de deux) in order to provide more technical dancing, but I think he was wise to segregate the real and the magic in order to increase the latter's theatrical impact!

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re: the fir forest transformation, i was struck by the sketch in Wiley's Ivanov study to see that the artisan involved was a not just a scenic designer but one of the theater's machinists, thus making the transformation perhaps more than just a change of backdrops.

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Yes, indeed! :sweatingbullets: I have a feeling that the transformations may have employed the full arsenal of the Maryinsky's armamentarium, with sets and props flying, running, and trapping all over the stage (and watch out backstage!)

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also: Mel, are you aware of any initially proposed divertissement of 'cream pastries' in act 2 which was then dropped?

the only 'ref.' to this i've ever seen to such a detail was in a translation of a Russian 'paper' about NUTCRACKER in a Petipa Study supplement to a Russian language ballet magazine; the writer, presumably something of researcher and historian, didn't give a source for this statement. i'd never encountered this detail before or since. have you?

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I can't say that I've ever seen that, but Robert Joffrey used to talk of soft candy (nougats) as the theme for the Trepak. Balanchine chose stick candy, which doesn't travel well, for his Danse Russe, so naturally, they have to be Candy Canes. Joffrey in his personal collection had a pair of great blousy trousers that were used by the Ballet Russe for their version of the Russian Dance.

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I love the Balanchine version. I was about to write "unequivocally," except that I've never cared for the extended sequence with Marie's bed going round and round the stage. I find the rest completely magical and was able to convert one self-described ballet hater into a Balanchine lover by taking him to a performance of Mr. B's Nutcracker. When a grown man turns to you in the middle of the battle scene with a seven-year-old's look of enchantment on his face, you know that the ballet's "done it" for him.

There's a part of me that loves the fact that the staging hasn't been updated in decades. That way, we respond emotionally to the magic of the *drama* rather than thinking "Wow!" as we watch a bunch of impressive modern stage mechanics. (After decades of almost annual NYCB Nutcracker attendance, I still find myself holding my breath for long stretches from the transformation scene through to the end of the act. I feel like I believe in it as absolutely as any child does.) However, I finally have to admit that I rather wish they would tinker--very, very carefully, because this is holy to many of us!--with the transition to the snow scene. It looks clunky, the Christmas tree hoisted unceremoniously into the flies ("So it was fake after all!"), the gaping hole it leaves behind in the stage, the forest just dropped into place. Fortunately, there is glorious music to lose oneself in, but nevertheless I find it a wee bit difficult to maintain my suspension of disbelief. While I agree the movie of this production is unsatisfactory--with little of the magic it has on stage, it remains almost completely unmoving--at least they did change this one moment for the cameras (not well enough, though). Maybe a scrim with a film projection of some kind?

About children playing the leads: Friends of mine who want to get right to the dancing roll their eyes, but I just adore it. Nutcracker is supposed to be for kids, and as everybody with kids knows, having children on stage engages an audience of children like nothing else. Also, part of the fun of seeing Nutcracker live is hearing the children in the audience applauding, laughing, talking excitedly. (This being New York, one can even occasionally hear a wolf whistle when Coffee dances.) Also, in Balanchine's version, putting children in the leads removes any whiff of sentimentality from the production. It's precisely that clear, cool classicism that I find so incredibly moving and that gives this production its enormous staying power, year after year, decade after decade.

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Many times I’ve been backstage post performance and I've been amazed at how young and petite many- (MANY)-dancers look, both females and males. It is not hard to find dancers who look way younger than their real age- (e.g.- Kirkland, Daniil Simkin). The thing with Clara and the ballet is that in order for the character not to look weird there should be a formula to be followed in where: 1-She is always chosen to be portrayed by a close to the character's age ballerina- (I would say no more than 17/18 y.o), and 2-Because of number 1 reason, this character won't be a Principal dancer and will be away from the difficulty of the Act II PDD but at the same time she will have enough technique to go on pointe on Act I and make the whole thing more dancing oriented. None of the this was applicable to Kirkland). I totally agree that having a 40 y.o ballerina in a little girl nightgown doesn’t look right- (and ditto with the party kids, who also should be real dancers, but in their teen years). The main problem is that with all the pastiches that this ballet has been subjected to, many stagers want to have Clara/Marie/Masha do the Act II PDD, which only can happen with a grown up ballerina.

Infantilizing adults is a variable concept. As I said earlier, a girl can be physically able to marry and procreate as early as 12 y.o. Ditto with boys, whereas at the same time some women of 15,16 are still playing with Barbie dolls. A curious thing is that the opposite idea, the pageant competitions, where REAL girls- (7,8,9 y.o)-are told to show of their bodies in full makeup like a Vegas showgirl- (yes…JonBenet Ramsey, RIP)-doesn’t seem to be that shocking to many standards.

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Nutcracker has always been good to stimulate discussion. During its original run, someone wrote that they were displeased by this "fragile and sugary Nutcracker". But now, it seems, this fragile thing is much like the Potomac Creek Bridge built during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln said of the bridge, "It is 400 feet long, and over 100 feet high, and there is nothing to it but bean poles and corn stalks, yet it carries entire loaded trains back and forth all day long!" Sometimes, the apparently delicate can have entirely startling strength.

I've never been entirely happy with the tree flying out, too, and found that in the planning of the transformation effect, Clara and the Prince were to walk INTO the tree, and it "magically" unfolded into an entire forest! I'd love to see how they rigged that effect, but then I remember about Balanchine writing about the Tsar's Finnish Regiment marching away from the Maryinsky after shows. They were the stagehands! With that much people power, no wonder they could make wondrous things happen with the scenery!

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But now, it seems, this fragile thing is much like the Potomac Creek Bridge built during the American Civil War.

:rofl:

I've never been entirely happy with the tree flying out, too, and found that in the planning of the transformation effect, Clara and the Prince were to walk INTO the tree, and it "magically" unfolded into an entire forest! I'd love to see how they rigged that effect

Mel, that's how Alonso does it. If you notice on the clips that I linked above, there's a hidden entrance on the bottom of the tree. The whole thing is simple. Once they walk into it the whole set is mechanically lifted-(in the dark, while only a spotlight follows Clara and the Nutcracker)- and then the snow backdrops are already in place.

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That's why I would love to see how the thing was rigged back in St. Petersburg! Original ballet scores are hard to find; original ballet stage manager prompt books seem to be nearly nonexistent! I've only seen two from productions other than those I was working with myself.

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Nutcracker has always been good to stimulate discussion. During its original run, someone wrote that they were displeased by this "fragile and sugary Nutcracker".

I have avoided the Nutcracker over the last decade having only seen 5 performances. I was taken to a matinee of Peter Wright's RB production two weeks ago and went simply because their were several very interesting debuts. However as good as some of the individual performances were, I find this production inteminably dreary which was not enlivened by a very poor performance by corps de ballet, the braking of props , the stumbling of children and the ROH orchestra who had no semblance of a singing orchestral tone. I understand Mr Wright's later production foir the Birmingham Royal Ballet is generall considered superior to his earlier effort.

Of course the ballet is of a seasonal(Christmas) nature, but it was always intended to be for an adult audience given its dark overtones. I think Roland John Wiley's book on the Tchaikovsky's ballets makes an interesting read(do include all the notes) on the evolution of its production.

My first viewing of this ballet was when I was 16 years of age and it was in a staging by David Lichine with designs by Alexandre Benois and performed by London Festival Ballet. It remained constant in my memory as a yardstick for all performances that is until, I saw two properly adult versions by Nureyev(darkly psychological)and Grigorovich(glorious in production and performance) with outstanding casts.

I cannot judge Blanchine's version as I have only seen it on film and it made no great impression upon me, but then, I was probably going through one of those Richard Buckle moments of,"One more Nutcracker closer to death."

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the attached scan of a Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo program from a Fri. Nov. 4 evening performance, which oddly began at 8:20, comes without the year spelt out, but which may be 1949 or '50, details the way THE NUTCRACKER at the BRdMC was credited, etc.

post-848-1230575770_thumb.jpg

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