MinkusPugni

Nutcracker

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I'm generally not big on psychological takes on classics -- I HATED the Kirkland/Baryshnikov/Minz version -- but I have a fondness for Kent Stowell's version. Because the Maurice Sendak sets are edgy, they are a great setting for Stowell's take, in which I think he depicts the fears and wishes of a puebescent girl, caught between childhood and adulthood quite convincingly. I very disappointed I missed it this year due to the snow :off topic:

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Thanks for the clips, but I don't find them convincing. What helps make a ballet a ballet isn't how many steps or how much pointework there is, but how the movement and action relate to the music. That pas de deux in front of the Christmas tree is very nice and the dancers look good, but it appears trivial and is dwarfed by Tchaikovsky's soaring music - a huge crescendo written to support what Balanchine used it for, the magically growing tree and crashing together of the giant window panes. This is a great BALLET moment; no quantity or quality of jumps, turns and lifts can touch it. If Balanchine had made nothing but Act One of The Nutcracker, he'd still be Balanchine.

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If Balanchine had made nothing but Act One of The Nutcracker, he'd still be Balanchine.

No doubt about it my friend...! :off topic: (But ditto with the non-convincing feeling relating the rotating bed and the flying thing at the end. Never been a fan of those devices)

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...Tchaikovsky's soaring music - a huge crescendo written to support what Balanchine used it for, the magically growing tree and crashing together of the giant window panes. This is a great BALLET moment; no quantity or quality of jumps, turns and lifts can touch it.

Yes, it is literally breathtaking. I was completely overwhelmed by the transformation the very first time I saw it. Mind you, Balanchine didn't need stagecraft to do it. The first time I saw the second movement of Concerto Barocco I had the air knocked out of me in exactly the same way.

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...Tchaikovsky's soaring music - a huge crescendo written to support what Balanchine used it for, the magically growing tree and crashing together of the giant window panes. This is a great BALLET moment; no quantity or quality of jumps, turns and lifts can touch it.

Yes, it is literally breathtaking. I was completely overwhelmed by the transformation the very first time I saw it. Mind you, Balanchine didn't need stagecraft to do it. The first time I saw the second movement of Concerto Barocco I had the air knocked out of me in exactly the same way.

Well, I think Balanchine just had an incredible sense of movement, not just limited to steps as such, but just the concept of movement

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I'm with those who consider the Balanchine tree a GREAT moment in dance theater and a wonderful visuallization of the music. (Nothing will ever match that first tree he had at City Center. It quaked and wobbled and was spookily wonderful.)

Perhaps we like best those Nutcrackers we knew when we were young and impressionable. Conversely, perhaps all Nutcrackers that violate those early memories appear worse to us than they actually are. :o

For example, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba version liked by cubanmiamiboy -- which has a doorway opening at the base of the tree and the Nutcracker actually having to duck his head in order to get through it -- strikes me as bad theater. Also, you can see the branches on the right side of the tree sliding outward to create the opening at the center. As for the mice: why are they dressed like the Nutcracker prince? why do they cluster so, making it difficult to see them moving? Why are you allowed to see one of the mice removing the toy Nutcracker so that the "live" Nutcracker prince can replace it a bit later on?

Cristian, I believe that in an earlier post (possibly on another thread) you said that Clara and the Prince start their journey to the Land of Snow by entering the tree. Do they use that same opening?

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The things that I disliked about the Houston Ballet "Nutcracker" all pointed to bad theater, and I was really surprised, because I had always thought that Ben Stevenson had the reputation of being a theater man.

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Why are you allowed to see one of the mice removing the toy Nutcracker so that the "live" Nutcracker prince can replace it a bit later on?

This is a bad staging job, I agree...

Cristian, I believe that in an earlier post (possibly on another thread) you said that Clara and the Prince start their journey to the Land of Snow by entering the tree. Do they use that same opening?

Yes, they do. I'll try to get a clip of the moment.

Perhaps we like best those Nutcrackers we knew when we were young and impressionable. Conversely, perhaps all Nutcrackers that violate those early memories appear worse to us than they actually are. :o

This is it. It's ALL about this... :wink:

On the other side, I think one of the main reasons Alonso's Nutcracker works for me and the dancers is the conflict of the Primera Bailarina/Primer Bailarin cease to be. Since Act I we see Clara and the Nutcracker dancing as much enjoyable classical dance, so there's not anxious waiting for THE PDD. By the time the Sugar Plum shows up, there's a general feeling created in the audience in which one wonders if the other bailarina/bailarin will surpass the main couple's dancing. (This besides the third couple, the Snow Queen/King)

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(Hoping not to be "off season" here...)

I just wanted to share this beautiful 1958 clip of Dame Margot and Michael Soames dancing the Nutcracker Adagio in the version that "does it"-( :wink: )-for me. I just noticed that the dramatic lift where the ballerina is held on her back upside down sweeping her arms is even more powerful, longer and riskier here. I guess it takes a really GOOD partner to create this effect. I also noticed that there's a more accent on the romantic dialogue...at one point Soames even seems to be whispering to Fonteyn, while at that same lift. She looks so beautiful...all smiles and romantic with her whole body language towards him...

The fragment is at the end of the clip. Enjoy it! :innocent:

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My goodness, that clip is so beautiful! Not that I wasn't expecting it, but the grace of her port de bras and incredible line are so striking after watching today's dancers, even very good ones.

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I just wanted to share this beautiful 1958 clip of Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes dancing the Nutcracker Adagio in the version that "does it"-( :innocent: )-for me.
I am completely with you on this, Cristian.

This season I've watched dozens of videos of this pdd (the big names and the not-so-big names). I've also watched 10 or so live performances of the ballt, counting rehearsals, with three different ballerinas. Even if we set aside the matter of Fonteyn's beautifully proportioned body, her line,, and the great support she gets from Soames -- Fonteyn is so totally invested in every bit of what she is dancing! So unfussy. So alive. So full of the Sugar Plum Fairy's warmth, charm and magic. So attuned to the music. It's a kind of "gold standard" -- or perhaps "silver" is closer to the qualities she conveys. Thanks for posting this!

RE: Hans's post. I was amused by one of the comments in the clip:

Trying to get people now to do a simple straight ... classical arabesque is not so easy.
:wink:

P.S. I love the clip of Fonteyn at the barre.

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I just wanted to share this beautiful 1958 clip of Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes dancing the Nutcracker Adagio in the version that "does it"-( :innocent: )-for me.
I am completely with you on this, Cristian.

This season I've watched dozens of videos of this pdd (the big names and the not-so-big names). I've also watched 10 or so live performances of the ballt, counting rehearsals, with three different ballerinas. Even if we set aside the matter of Fonteyn's beautifully proportioned body, her line,, and the great support she gets from Soames -- Fonteyn is so totally invested in every bit of what she is dancing! So unfussy. So alive. So full of the Sugar Plum Fairy's warmth, charm and magic. So attuned to the music. It's a kind of "gold standard" -- or perhaps "silver" is closer to the qualities she conveys. Thanks for posting this!

RE: Hans's post. I was amused by one of the comments in the clip:

Trying to get people now to do a simple straight ... classical arabesque is not so easy.
:wink:

P.S. I love the clip of Fonteyn at the barre.

I also love Dame Margot at the barre. It captures her beauty of line and movement that is somehow very moving and it brought back many memories of seeing this exquisite woman and dancer on stage.

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My goodness, that clip is so beautiful! Not that I wasn't expecting it, but the grace of her port de bras and incredible line are so striking after watching today's dancers, even very good ones.

Yes, wasn't it just gorgeous? She was my first ballerina. I was very young and I first thought that all ballerinas danced like that! She was the first Odette I saw

and I still think of the wonderful quality of her line today. No tricks, just the real thing.

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Thank you, Cristian. She's one of the most singularly beautiful dancers, as we all know--and certainly here as well. What I liked in the commentary was Dowell pointing out the superb proportions of the body itself, which I think one always noticed but it wasn't quite conscious for me how important that was till he mentioned it--and I think he said that that was why she had few injuries, and probably also has to do with the opening remarks about her consistency of performance.

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In my humble opinion, it's just about impossible to find what we can call a "definite" version of The Nutcracker. :beg:

However, one interesting version I really like because of my familiarity with the San Francisco area is Helgi Tomasson's version from 2004, which places itself in a motif derived from the 1915 San Francisco Pan-Pacific Exposition. It was recently released on DVD, and I've seen it live myself a few years ago, too. :clapping:

I for one would LOVE to see a revival of the original Petipa/Ivanov version from 1892, but since the current deputy director of ballet (Yuri Fateyev) at the Mariinsky Theatre is not interested in doing "reconstructions," I wonder will anyone want to do it, epecially with today's poor economy.

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Back when I was a kid (1995-ish) BalletMet brought in a choreographer named David Nixon. At that time, I was kinda getting bored by the usual...oh there's the Christmas party, there's the battle, there's the snow forest, there's the land of sweets...the end. It was great and all that, but for some reason, it didn't "do it" for me. David Nixon took Nutcracker to that level. He changed the story only a bit. He added a character named Je t'aime (Clara's cat) and Clara is danced by an adult the entire show. The beginning was the same, party with the Stahlbaum family, Fritz breaks the Nutcracker Drosselmeyer gives to Clara, a little change in the Harlequin/Columbine dolls in that they are actually the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, party ends, bedtime, Clara sneaks downstairs, battle with the mouse king, Ratsputtle, who lives to fight another day, travel through the land of snow where Je t'aime and Clara and Nutcracker as well as the sugar plum fairy and Drosselmeyer are kidnapped by Ratsputtle's army and taken back to his lair where Act II begins.

Act I had already "done it" for me, but Act II, my god, it was out of this world. At the end of Act I, a scrim came down instead of the main curtain. The scrim was decorated with a huge Nutcracker on it holding a bowl of nuts. About 1 minute into the opening entr'acte of Act II, the lights go out and you can see through this huge nut on the scrim, and as your watch, you see the mouse army carrying the various characters to the "Mouse Hole", Ratsputtle's lair. Whenever I listen to the score of The Nutcracker, I always end up with a big smile across my face when the opening of Act II is played because this was such a magical moment. After we arrive in the mouse hole we find out that not only was the Nutcracker under a spell, which is now broken, but that the Kingdom of Sweets is also under a spell, having been taken over by Ratsputtle and the magic nut. Only way to defeat both Ratsputtle and break the magic nut: have the SPF do the Arabian dance and put Ratsputtle to sleep. Nutcracker uses his sword to crack the nut. Waltz of the flowers, rest of the divertissements, the GPDD with SPF and Cavalier, ending with Clara home with Je t'aime and Nutcracker in her arms. Curtain falls.

I think I got most of the details right. It has been at least 9-10 years (this version stopped in 2001) since I saw it in Columbus.

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I think I got most of the details right. It has been at least 9-10 years (this version stopped in 2001) since I saw it in Columbus. I'll come back to this when I can post pictures and put a couple up of the inside of the Ohio Theatre.

You have quite a great memory, Tchaikovskyfan!! :thumbsup: Good for you...it looks as this Nutcracker was sort of an elaborated one in terms of libretto.

From all the versions I've seen, live or in video, I have to say I give Vainonen's the big prize for Act II's conception. The backdrops and props are glorious, and I like the fact that one get to see the rest of the cast enjoying the divertissements onstage as audience. Sometimes Act II tends to look quite bare, although if presented with a beautiful set design a la Sir Peter Wright's, then this is not so obvious.

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Back when I was a kid (1995-ish) BalletMet brought in a choreographer named David Nixon. At that time, I was kinda getting bored by the usual...oh there's the Christmas party, there's the battle, there's the snow forest, there's the land of sweets...the end. It was great and all that, but for some reason, it didn't "do it" for me. David Nixon took Nutcracker to that level. He changed the story only a bit. He added a character named Je t'aime (Clara's cat) and Clara is danced by an adult the entire show. The beginning was the same, party with the Stahlbaum family, Fritz breaks the Nutcracker Drosselmeyer gives to Clara, a little change in the Harlequin/Columbine dolls in that they are actually the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, party ends, bedtime, Clara sneaks downstairs, battle with the mouse king, Ratsputtle, who lives to fight another day, travel through the land of snow where Je t'aime and Clara and Nutcracker as well as the sugar plum fairy and Drosselmeyer are kidnapped by Ratsputtle's army and taken back to his lair where Act II begins.

Act I had already "done it" for me, but Act II, my god, it was out of this world. At the end of Act I, a scrim came down instead of the main curtain. The scrim was decorated with a huge Nutcracker on it holding a bowl of nuts. About 1 minute into the opening entr'acte of Act II, the lights go out and you can see through this huge nut on the scrim, and as your watch, you see the mouse army carrying the various characters to the "Mouse Hole", Ratsputtle's lair. Whenever I listen to the score of The Nutcracker, I always end up with a big smile across my face when the opening of Act II is played because this was such a magical moment. After we arrive in the mouse hole we find out that not only was the Nutcracker under a spell, which is now broken, but that the Kingdom of Sweets is also under a spell, having been taken over by Ratsputtle and the magic nut. Only way to defeat both Ratsputtle and break the magic nut: have the SPF do the Arabian dance and put Ratsputtle to sleep. Nutcracker uses his sword to crack the nut. Waltz of the flowers, rest of the divertissements, the GPDD with SPF and Cavalier, ending with Clara home with Je t'aime and Nutcracker in her arms. Curtain falls.

I think I got most of the details right. It has been at least 9-10 years (this version stopped in 2001) since I saw it in Columbus.

And to give you a little context to go by, here is the Ohio Theatre. (With a couple of pics from the Nutcracker)

Ohio Theatre Curtain

Ohio Theatre

The Nutcracker: Battle against the Mouse King

The Nutcracker: Land of Snow

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While we're at it, here's a video that gives you an idea of the Ballet Florida Nutcracker. The company is gone, now. But it remains in my memory as one of the most affecting and audience-entrancing I've seen.

P.S. I'm having trouble downloading this. If you click the black box, you'll get the YouTube version, which starts up immediately.

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While we're at it, here's a video that gives you an idea of the Ballet Florida Nutcracker. The company is gone, now. But it remains in my memory as one of the most affecting and audience-entrancing I've seen.

P.S. I'm having trouble downloading this. If you click the black box, you'll get the YouTube version, which starts up immediately.

What a lovely production, bart!! Loved the house setting, and the dolls coming from that shell. I assume the flying rug with the guy is the arabian dance, right...? And according to the little snipped of the SPF PDD, it looks like in the same line as Wright/Alonso...beautiful indeed!

PS-Are you in the party scene in that clip...? :wink:

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I assume the flying rug with the guy is the arabian dance, right...?

Right. Later this was changed into a two-ships-passing-in-the-night confrontation with an alluring odalisque carried on a litter. The lighting was increased, to capture the cobalt blue and gold body paint of bare-chested litter bearers. The mystery and sligiht naughtiness of it always made me think of the Imperial theaters in Russia.
PS-Are you in the party scene in that clip..?
No. The filmed this before I got the part. However, I was one of the team of butlers. It was not a starring role but had challenges of its own. Balancing feather-weight plastic champagne flutes on a silver tray, while dodging 30 or so dancing party-goers, is MUCH more difficult than carrying the real thing.) :wink:

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I assume the flying rug with the guy is the arabian dance, right...?

Right. Later this was changed into a two-ships-passing-in-the-night confrontation with an alluring odalisque carried on a litter. The lighting was increased, to capture the cobalt blue and gold body paint of bare-chested litter bearers. The mystery and sligiht naughtiness of it always made me think of the Imperial theaters in Russia.

Wow...has a DVD been made of this production, bart...?

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[H]as a DVD been made of this production, bart...?
Not anything that could be released commercially. Like most local and regional companies, BF lacked the resources and backing to even think of commercial video. I also suspect that this production was something that needed a live theater -- and living, breathing, reacting audiences -- to be experienced the way it was intended.

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