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Nutcracker choreographies

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The next fragment from Ratmansky's interview for Dance Magazine got me thinking...

DM- "And what about the Nutcracker for ABT in December? Will it be a Russian Nutcracker or an American Nutcracker?

AR- It probably will be somewhere in between, like I am—hanging between the traditions and styles and expectations.

So I got a whole set of questions...

Will he takes bits from the most revered rendition of the ballet in Russia-(Vainonen)?

Will he try to keep the only preserved Ivanov chunk of choreography...(the Sugar Plum Fairy Pas de Deux)-like Wright and Alonso...?

Will he try to do some athletic rendition, a la Grigorovitch for the Bolshoi...?

And here are four clips of the aboved mentioned choreographies.

What do you think...?

Vainonen for the Mariinsky. (Lezhnina/Baranov)

Grigorovitch for the Bolshoi. (Maximova/Vasiliev)

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

Ivanov, staged by Sir Peter Wright for the RB. (Collier/Dowell)

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It's very interesting to compare these side by side. Among the many differences, the presence of the 4 cavaliers in the Mariinsky version is most striking to me.

Are these inventions of Vainonen? Do they appear in other versions? What do people think about them? Do you suggest that Ratmansky adopt them?

On one level these added dancers seem to over-complicate the pas de deux. They also seem to detract from the central relationship (the "deux" in pas de deux) between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. It's strange to see the Sugar Plum Cavalier standing around so much and gazing in awe as others do the partnering job which is usually is his alone. At times, as when the 4 men mirror the arabesques performed by the central couple, I have the impression of unnecessary clutter.

On the other hand, there are also choreographic touches that are lovely. One example: the sequence in which the 4 cavaliers join the Sugar Plum Fairy, hand in hand, as she jetes towards downstage center and then chase after her as she rushes back, forming the base of a fountain, from which the Fairy rises like a jet of water. Much more dramatic than your conventional shoulder lift.

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It's very interesting to compare these side by side. Among the many differences, the presence of the 4 cavaliers in the Mariinsky version is most striking to me.

Are these inventions of Vainonen? Do they appear in other versions? What do people think about them? Do you suggest that Ratmansky adopt them?

On one level these added dancers seem to over-complicate the pas de deux. They also, implicitly, detract from the central relationship (the "deux" in pas de deux) between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. It's strange to see the Sugar Plum Cavalier standing around so much and gazing in wonder others do the partnering which, in most versions, is left to him.

On the other hand, there are choreographic touches that are lovely. One example: the sequence in which the 4 cavaliers join the Sugar Plum Fairy as she rushes towards downstage center and then follow her as she runs back, helping to form a visual fountain from the center of which the Fairy rises like a jet of water.

Some fragments of Vainonen's look just like takes from Petipa's Rose Adagio, like the series of supported developpes a la seconde...

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We have to remember that ballet masters are affected by what they're brought up with, whether to include material positively, or to react against it. Someone brought up with Balanchine's pas de deux may be led to stage a standard one-and-one adage with variations, or with the SPF variation relocated to the early part of Act II. In this respect, Balanchine answered early criticism of the ballet that the ballerina didn't have much to do until the very end. I do wish that people would stop trying to please critics from 118 years ago! Chances are that they aren't writing much about ballet any more.

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I find Grigorovitch's take quite bizarre. At the very beginning of the Pas, Maximova and Vasiliev are kneeling and posturing their hands in a gesture that look just as if they will start praying! Also, I don't remember any classical choreography where the Prince/Cavalier/male partner is lifted, just as his ballerina. The whole business with the candelabra is quite weird too...

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I much prefer the simplicity and elegance of the Royal Ballet version. The other two seem unnecessarily fussy with far too many people on stage, which to me detracts from the central couple. I hope Ratmansky doesn't try to throw in everything but the kitchen sink! Less can be more.

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I find Grigorovitch's take quite bizarre. At the very beginning of the Pas, Maximova and Vasiliev are kneeling and posturing their hands in a gesture that look just as if they will start praying! Also, I don't remember any classical choreography where the Prince/Cavalier/male partner is lifted, just as his ballerina. The whole business with the candelabra is quite weird too...

I totally agree with you. The music soars, the choreography doesn't, and the props are a distraction. In his version, Masha and the Prince get married - during the performance, so that may be why they're kneeling in prayer. During the final Waltz, the corps puts a veil with train on Masha's head, and a bouquet in her hand. She and the Prince stand under the Christmas tree until the waltz comes to a climax. The bride is a double: The prima ballerina exits early to change back into her nightgown before the last scene. All of this stage traffic is too busy.

Grigorovich was extremely fortunate to have Maximova and Vasiliev as his original Masha and Prince. IMO their artistry saved this version and made it a hit at the Bolshoi. Now, his version is as sacred there as his "Spartacus." In his "Nutcracker," Maximova and Vasiliev did alot with very little. The highlight of this "pas de deux" is the supported piourettes at the end. Maximova had such kinetic energy and strength in her back and feet: She spun like a top - she had superlative technique! The Kultur tape from 1987 is amazing - not just because of her age at the time, but the fact that she had seriously injured her back in the 70s and was out for two years.

The Bolshoi danced the Vainonen production until Grigorovich instituted this version which premiered on March 20, 1966. When the Mariinsky tours "Nutcracker," they take the Vainonen; they only toured the Chemiakin twice when it was new. The Vaganova students perform the Vainonen in Petersburg, and the company performs the recent Chemiakin production at home. If I had to choose between the Grigorovich, Vainonen and Chemiakin productions, I'd take the Vainonen. I wish it had the Ivanov pas de deux. That said, I believe that Balanchine's production is the splinter in the cross. I suspect that Ratmansky will do something totally new and modern with "Nutcracker," like he did with the Mariinsky's "Cinderella."

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I find Grigorovitch's take quite bizarre. At the very beginning of the Pas, Maximova and Vasiliev are kneeling and posturing their hands in a gesture that look just as if they will start praying! Also, I don't remember any classical choreography where the Prince/Cavalier/male partner is lifted, just as his ballerina. The whole business with the candelabra is quite weird too...

I bought this on DVD a number of years ago and after one viewing put it up for sale on Ebay. Aside from the choreography which I found sort of uninteresting, the physical side of the production seemed very unattractive and even amateurish to me and I couldn't get over the Prince appearing in what looks something like red flannel pajamas!

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I much prefer the simplicity and elegance of the Royal Ballet version. The other two seem unnecessarily fussy with far too many people on stage, which to me detracts from the central couple. I hope Ratmansky doesn't try to throw in everything but the kitchen sink! Less can be more.

The "RB version" is pretty much the standard Ivanov, about 90% unembellished.

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Let's explore each of the 3 separately:

Vainonen for the Mariinsky. (Lezhina/Baranov)

The only thing that bugs me here is that there are 4 extra cavaliers, turning this pas de deux into a pas de six. However, in parts, they actually do add to the PDD, just unusual for a two-person dance. I also recall seeing versions of other Nutcracker productions where there were characters sitting on the sidelines, but never dancing during the PDD.

Grigorovitch for the Bolshoi. (Maximova/Vasiliev)

This one is just a complete mess. The dancers are beautiful, very good at what they do, obviously, it's just that the choreography is lacking in parts. What they do accomplish in this dance is very beautiful, just that all the dancers on the stage just add clutter. You have the men with the candelabras, and the flowers are also dancing. Just a very confusing version.

Ivanov, staged by Wright for the Royal. (Collier/Dowell)

The classic. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier OR Clara/Marie and Nutcracker. End of story. All of the PDD's I've ever seen have been done in the Ivanov style. And in this particular clip, the cape used at the end to help the Sugar Plum Fairy go across the floor is reminiscent of Balanchine's PDD ending.

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Re: Nureyev's version.

It's an interesting example of what Nureyev often does in pdd: have male and female dance extensively in parallel, doing the same choreography at the same time. For me, this sets up a kind of visual competition. Certainly it demolishes the traditional role of the Cavalier in the partnership. My reaction that may just be subjective, since the first time I saw him live in the mid 60s he and Fonteyn were doing parallel grand jetes, in which the eye was inevitably drawn to Nureyev himself and his much larger jumps.

That said, I love the effect of the white costumes against the simple dark rust background. You can't fudge under those conditions..

I'm struck by those reversed (flipped?) fish-dive-like (but higher) movements shortly after 5 minutes on the video. Do they have a name? Were they Nureyev's invention? Have they been done elsewhere?

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I find Grigorovitch's take quite bizarre. At the very beginning of the Pas, Maximova and Vasiliev are kneeling and posturing their hands in a gesture that look just as if they will start praying! Also, I don't remember any classical choreography where the Prince/Cavalier/male partner is lifted, just as his ballerina. The whole business with the candelabra is quite weird too...

I never liked the candelabra, however watching Maximova and Vasiliev in Nutcracker and Spartacus in 1969 at the Royal Opera House changed the lives of a good number of people I know and knew.

The moment when the prostrate Nutcracker Prince comes to life and Vasiliev takes his hand from his face and the music swells was a never to be forgotten experience and that was without the glorious dancing that was to follow from these two most remarkable dancers.

Not my favourite production, but certainly my favourite performance of this ballet. Picture the delightful Maximova acting away in her nightdress then the act of flinging her shoe at the Rat King and then of course her transformation to gorgeous princess in the last act.

Grigorovich for all his faults, knows exactly how to choreograph great roles for great dancers. Lets not worry about the story or Tchaikovsky getting lost in this production, they don't and the Bolshoi orchestra always rises to the demands of the beauty of the score.

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Re: Nureyev's version.

It's an interesting example of what Nureyev often does in pdd: have male and female dance extensively in parallel, doing the same choreography at the same time. For me, this sets up a kind of visual competition. Certainly it demolishes the traditional role of the Cavalier in the partnership. My reaction that may just be subjective, since the first time I saw him live in the mid 60s he and Fonteyn were doing parallel grand jetes, in which the eye was inevitably drawn to Nureyev himself and his much larger jumps.

That said, I love the effect of the white costumes against the simple dark rust background. You can't fudge under those conditions..

I'm struck by those reversed (flipped?) fish-dive-like (but higher) movements shortly after 5 minutes on the video. Do they have a name? Were they Nureyev's invention? Have they been done elsewhere?

Nureyev was doing this a lot in his 1960s choreography. He seemed to want to establish that a man could dance adagio just as well as a woman can. This is the period when the legato male variations got added to Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty and the like, most of which were sleep-inducing for me. Polemics in ballet tends to the boring side.

The flipped fishes are seen in some Soviet-era choreography, but with different accents, as they generally linked even more spectacular lifts and catches.

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Have you ever try to come up with the "ideal choreography" of a classic, taking bits from different versions...? Well, I do that a lot, and here's my pick for the Nutcracker.

Act I

The Party: Baryshnikov for the toys' solos and Alonso's for Clara's dancing.

The Transformation Scene: Alonso's after Fedorova. No transformation here, but instead a PDD for Clara and The Nutcracker.

The Mice Scene: Baryshnikov for the choreographed battle, Alonso's for the choreographed mice on pointe.

The Snow Scene: Vainonen's for the snowflakes choreography, Alonso's for the Snow Queen PDD

Act II

Intro- Alonso's, for the parade of Matryoshka dolls

Nutcracker's mime: Baryshnikov.

Divertissements:

Spanish Dance-Baryshnikov's couple-(ballerina on pointe)

Marzipan Merlitons Dance- Baryshnikov's couple. Love the little story of the boy disguised as a wolf sscaring away the shepperdess.

Arabian Dance-Balanchine

Candy Canes/Russian Dance-Balanchine-(thanks to Daniel Baker :clapping: )

Mother Cigogne/Polichinelles- Baryshnikov, although here they're sans Cigogne, but still love the four dancers choreography.

Waltz of the Flowers: Baryshnikov, because he gives Clara and the Nutcracker the chance to dance along with the corps-(a liberty in the libretto, I know, but one that can resolve one of the main problems of this ballet).

Sugar Plum Fairy PDD: All Ivanov descendants.

Adagio- Sir Peter Wright's, for his complete use of the music, the restoration of the cape sequence at the end and the baroque/porcelain figurines appearance of the couple, wigs included.

Male Variation: Alonso's after Fedorova, for the final entrechats.

Female Variation: Sir Peter Wright's, because he includes the coda-(which is missing from other versions)

Coda: Alonso's after Fedorova.

Ballet Finale: Still undecided, but I think I would take the original one, which is nowhere to be found.

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A lot, if not all, of the recent Russian versions show signs of having been frightened in infancy by the 1919-1927 versions by Gorsky. Gorsky seems to have been the one who telescoped Marianne, Clara, and the Sugar Plum Fairy from the original libretto into one, and settled on the name Masha. In the 1927 version, he seems to have featured a Snow Scene with a kickline of dancing Santa Clauses. Thank heaven some things didn't catch on!

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Have you ever try to come up with the "ideal choreography" of a classic, taking bits from different versions...? Well, I do that a lot, and here's my pick for the Nutcracker.

Act I

The Party: Baryshnikov for the toys' solos and Alonso's for Clara's dancing.

The Transformation Scene: Alonso's after Fedorova. No transformation here, but instead a PDD for Clara and The Nutcracker.

The Mice Scene: Baryshnikov for the choreographed battle, Alonso's for the choreographed mice on pointe.

The Snow Scene: Vainonen's for the snowflakes choreography, Alonso's for the Snow Queen PDD

Act II

Intro- Alonso's, for the parade of Matryoshka dolls

Nutcracker's mime: Baryshnikov.

Divertissements:

Spanish Dance-Baryshnikov's couple-(ballerina on pointe)

Marzipan Merlitons Dance- Baryshnikov's couple. Love the little story of the boy disguised as a wolf sscaring away the shepperdess.

Arabian Dance-Balanchine

Candy Canes/Russian Dance-Balanchine-(thanks to Daniel Baker :clapping: )

Mother Cigogne/Polichinelles- Baryshnikov, although here they're sans Cigogne, but still love the four dancers choreography.

Waltz of the Flowers: Baryshnikov, because he gives Clara and the Nutcracker the chance to dance along with the corps-(a liberty in the libretto, I know, but one that can resolve one of the main problems of this ballet).

Sugar Plum Fairy PDD: All Ivanov descendants.

Adagio- Sir Peter Wright's, for his complete use of the music, the restoration of the cape sequence at the end and the baroque/porcelain figurines appearance of the couple, wigs included.

Male Variation: Alonso's after Fedorova, for the final entrechats.

Female Variation: Sir Peter Wright's, because he includes the coda-(which is missing from other versions)

Coda: Alonso's after Fedorova.

Ballet Finale: Still undecided, but I think I would take the original one, which is nowhere to be found.

A last minute addition: Thinking twice about the ballet finale, I would certainly like to see the original apotheosis, and I guess the closer we get to this is Balanchine's, but I prefer to see Clara waking up in her living room holding her Nutcracker doll. Not close to the libretto, but a beautiful ending. Baryshnikov's is sort of sad, and it can give you second thoughts...(I find that whole "love story feeling" quite bizarre), and Balanchine's flying troika doesn't quite "get" me... :dry:

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Have you ever try to come up with the "ideal choreography" of a classic, taking bits from different versions...? Well, I do that a lot, and here's my pick for the Nutcracker.

Act I

The Party: Baryshnikov for the toys' solos and Alonso's for Clara's dancing.

The Transformation Scene: Alonso's after Fedorova. No transformation here, but instead a PDD for Clara and The Nutcracker.

The Mice Scene: Baryshnikov for the choreographed battle, Alonso's for the choreographed mice on pointe.

The Snow Scene: Vainonen's for the snowflakes choreography, Alonso's for the Snow Queen PDD

Act II

Intro- Alonso's, for the parade of Matryoshka dolls

Nutcracker's mime: Baryshnikov.

Divertissements:

Spanish Dance-Baryshnikov's couple-(ballerina on pointe)

Marzipan Merlitons Dance- Baryshnikov's couple. Love the little story of the boy disguised as a wolf sscaring away the shepperdess.

Arabian Dance-Balanchine

Candy Canes/Russian Dance-Balanchine-(thanks to Daniel Baker :clapping: )

Mother Cigogne/Polichinelles- Baryshnikov, although here they're sans Cigogne, but still love the four dancers choreography.

Waltz of the Flowers: Baryshnikov, because he gives Clara and the Nutcracker the chance to dance along with the corps-(a liberty in the libretto, I know, but one that can resolve one of the main problems of this ballet).

Sugar Plum Fairy PDD: All Ivanov descendants.

Adagio- Sir Peter Wright's, for his complete use of the music, the restoration of the cape sequence at the end and the baroque/porcelain figurines appearance of the couple, wigs included.

Male Variation: Alonso's after Fedorova, for the final entrechats.

Female Variation: Sir Peter Wright's, because he includes the coda-(which is missing from other versions)

Coda: Alonso's after Fedorova.

Ballet Finale: Still undecided, but I think I would take the original one, which is nowhere to be found.

Question: Can we use choreography from ballet companies that we've seen? For example, I've seen the Nutcracker in Columbus for the majority of my life and have grown up with two or three different versions of choreography from BalletMet Columbus.

EDIT: Quick side note: You completely forgot the Tea (Chinese) dance.

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Have you ever try to come up with the "ideal choreography" of a classic, taking bits from different versions...? Well, I do that a lot, and here's my pick for the Nutcracker.

Act I

The Party: Baryshnikov for the toys' solos and Alonso's for Clara's dancing.

The Transformation Scene: Alonso's after Fedorova. No transformation here, but instead a PDD for Clara and The Nutcracker.

The Mice Scene: Baryshnikov for the choreographed battle, Alonso's for the choreographed mice on pointe.

The Snow Scene: Vainonen's for the snowflakes choreography, Alonso's for the Snow Queen PDD

Act II

Intro- Alonso's, for the parade of Matryoshka dolls

Nutcracker's mime: Baryshnikov.

Divertissements:

Spanish Dance-Baryshnikov's couple-(ballerina on pointe)

Marzipan Merlitons Dance- Baryshnikov's couple. Love the little story of the boy disguised as a wolf sscaring away the shepperdess.

Arabian Dance-Balanchine

Candy Canes/Russian Dance-Balanchine-(thanks to Daniel Baker :clapping: )

Mother Cigogne/Polichinelles- Baryshnikov, although here they're sans Cigogne, but still love the four dancers choreography.

Waltz of the Flowers: Baryshnikov, because he gives Clara and the Nutcracker the chance to dance along with the corps-(a liberty in the libretto, I know, but one that can resolve one of the main problems of this ballet).

Sugar Plum Fairy PDD: All Ivanov descendants.

Adagio- Sir Peter Wright's, for his complete use of the music, the restoration of the cape sequence at the end and the baroque/porcelain figurines appearance of the couple, wigs included.

Male Variation: Alonso's after Fedorova, for the final entrechats.

Female Variation: Sir Peter Wright's, because he includes the coda-(which is missing from other versions)

Coda: Alonso's after Fedorova.

Ballet Finale: Still undecided, but I think I would take the original one, which is nowhere to be found.

Question: Can we use choreography from ballet companies that we've seen? For example, I've seen the Nutcracker in Columbus for the majority of my life and have grown up with two or three different versions of choreography from BalletMet Columbus.

Well...I tried to use those BT's would be more familiar with, so they could visualize the individual sections easier...

EDIT: Quick side note: You completely forgot the Tea (Chinese) dance.

Shame on me... :blushing: . Definitely Baryshnikov...(alhough I think he heavily copied Vainonen here...gotta check my DVD's).

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Well...I tried to use those BT's would be more familiar with, so they could visualize the individual sections easier...

Don't worry. The ones I have in my head are only for a couple of numbers (the beginning of act 2, Arabian dance and Waltz of the Flowers and I remember them like it was yesterday (and this version was performed in Columbus choreographed by David Nixon back in 1995)

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Another quick addition. There's a lovely detail from Alonso's Nutcracker that I had forgotten to mention. Her Act I doll's scene is an interesting one. Wanting to pay some homage to Fokine, she reintroduces the three characters from Petrushka...Petrushka himself, the doll and the blackmoor, along with the original costume designs...

Nice touch... :thumbsup:

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My favourite version is the Vainonen, the only thing that really bothers me is that (at least in the Mariinsky's version) part of the music of the Sugar Plum Fairy is left out!

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Cristian, I hate to say this, but it sounds as if your "ideal Nutcracker" is all additions, no deletions. This could be one very long evening. Or is that the point. :wink:

I'm sorry for Balanchine, represented only by Arabian.

And what about the kiddies?

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I find Balanchine's Act I infinitely preferable to anything else out there. I'm just sorry that the Sergeyev Notations are so vague on what the Battle looked like in the original. Some piano reductions have, however, preserved some of Drigo's penciled marginalia, like, "Mouse picks up (cookie) soldier. Turns him upside-down. Eats him." This gruesome effect brought to you by courtesy of a pocket in the lifting mouse's costume with its open end just below the head. Mouse picks up little boy, turns him bottoms-up, stuffs him down the pocket. "Okay, kid, here we go!!!"

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Cristian, I hate to say this, but it sounds as if your "ideal Nutcracker" is all additions, no deletions. This could be one very long evening. Or is that the point. :wink:

Definitely!

I'm sorry for Balanchine, represented only by Arabian.

...and the Candy Canes/Russian dance...!! :thumbsup: (And this is thanks to Mel, whose transcription of the original libretto really did it for me.Until that moment I had much prefered Alonso after Nijinska's Three Ivans/Trepak... :wink: , but I'm a huge fan of libretto's accuracy, so... :thumbsup:

Edited to add: And just by accident I discovered this old thread in which rg posted various great-(as usual)-scans of some of the sketches for the original costumes, one of them that of the candy cane, with hoop and everything...! :wub:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/21326-costume-sketches-from-1892-nutcracker/page__view__findpost__p__219649

And what about the kiddies?

Behaving as they should while enjoying a night at the ballet with their parents...right in the audience .

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