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Nutcracker choreographiesthinking of Ratmansky


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#31 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 02:20 PM

Lezhnina is a beautiful dancer, but the choreography of the Grand Pas is very confusing. There are several suitors involved, so the finishing product is a look alike of the Rose Adagio...supported developes/arabesques a la seconde and everything included. Again...just as if one is watching a nice but entirely new ballet.



#32 EricHG31

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 06:12 PM

So is the Mariinsky Vainonen dvd a good one to purchase? I have heard the brand new Mariinsky version is a horrible production. What about the dancing?


I grew up on Nutcracker, like so many North American ballet fans I'm sure (I grew up in Edmonton in the 80s and ever since I was 4 I would go to see the local Alberta Ballet put on Nutcracker--a production which, at least back then, was very much a rip off, inspired by Blanchine's). So it really was my gateway into ballet in general--one of the first pieces of music I owned ws a two record set of the music.

As an adult, I find the ballet frustrating, as I think many ballet fans do. I come from the belief that the best versions of the ballet are the most traditional--although as a teenager I went through a stage where I was fascinated with all the darker, even "Freudian" modern versions of the ballet, which is probably seen at its most extreme in the Nureyev production. The belief seems to be that the music is so great, but the story completely lacking, and so many people try to go back to the original, very dark and strange, Hoffmann story. The problem is, the ballet is based on Alexandre Dumas fils' version which was popular in Russia at the time--which is a much more straightforward, children's take on the story.

Yes Tchaikovsky's music has some dark and scary undertones in Act I, but I still don't think they support attempts by Nureyev, Baryshnikov and the Soviets to make the story about something it's not. I like my Nutcracker to have a large cast of children, to have a Sugarplum Fairy and her Prince "Whooping Cough" *grin*, etc. I think this is why out of the major productions, Balanchine's is the dieal. Some balletomanes may think there are too many children, a first act which has too little dancing and a second act with too little story, and a plot that doesn't make "sense"--but to a child I think it makes perfect sense.

(One side note, I adore Tchaikovsky's music for the Grand Pas--I can never decide whether I prefer it or the Sleeping Beauty one. Yet many critics, to this day, have complained about it--wondering why it sounds so mournful in a fairly happy ballet, or others complaining that it's ALL just a series of descending notes... It does have a certain sadness to it, but I think I love that touch.)

I've always thought the original version was an attempt by Vsevolozhsky to replicate some of the success of Sleeping Beauty. In overall "formula" you can trace his scenario as an abridged version of Sleeping Beauty (abridged because it was comissioned to be performed with Tchaikovsky's one act opera Iolanthe opening the evening, even if I'm not sure how long they were performed together. Iolanthe, which is dark and moody actually, surprisingly, does make a nice contrast with Nutcracker). Droselmeyer, a "grotesque" role could be performed in some ways like Carabosse, you have a first act that tells most of the story, a second act (in this case a short *scene* and not full act) which fullfills the required "white ballet" component with the female corps performing elaborate patterns not as Naieds, or fairies, or swans, but as snowflakes, and a final act without much story that serves as a celebration with divertissement (including one for children with Mere Gignon, the way Sleeping Beauty has Hop O' My Thumb--both often dropped from productions), that ends with a Grand Pas de Deux,a final ensemble dance, and an apotheosis. Of course due to illness, Petipa didn't do the final choreography of Nutcracker, Ivanov did, but Petipa was the one who provided Tchaikovsky with his extremely detailed notes on how the music should be.

According to Wiley, the notation for Nutcracker is a mixed bag--I believe very little of the Battle of the Mice and Soldiers is notated (and I also believe it was originally performed with students recruited from the Russian military academy), and other parts are scattered. What we do have of Ivanov's production in various stagings is pretty stunning I think (elements of the Snow Flake dance which was so impressive in Russia that apparently much of the audience would move to the upper stalls just to see the intricate floor pattern, I believe originally they had *61* dancers), some of the divertissement (the Candy Canes dancing the mazurka is one--it's interesting that every production seems to change what sweet treat each country represents--as well as the original Waltz of the Flowers which involved a large central basket of flowers to be danced around), and of course the thrilling Grand Pas.

Anyway--out of the filmed versions, it's hard to find one that truly is the best. I don't like the movie (with Macauley Culkin) of Blanchine's production due to the narration and effects, and the earlier televised versions seem impossible to find, so I'm hoping we get a good broadcast of it this December.

Out of the other traditional productions on DVD, my favorite is the original 1980s Royal Ballet performance of Peter Wright's production (I like the changes he made for the current production, also filmed, much less--they seem to involve him trying once again to give the story "more coherence"). I do have issues with it--for a production that was created originally to be as close to Ivanov as possible, I don't get hy he added the backstory of the Nutcracker being Droselmeyer's nephew, at least that's the sense I get from it, he drops Mere Gignon, some of the kids are played by adults (Clara and the Prince are too old IMHO though not bad), and I think the Kingdom o Sweets set and costume designs are ugly--instead of the colours you get with Balanchine and in the photos we have of the original Russian set designs, they're all pastel pink and gold. But he did keep a lot of the original dancing, and on DVD it's danced very well. There's a great interview with Wright where he discusses this production, his later changes to the production and his productions for other countries, where he covers a lot of what he kept from Ivanov and what he didn't--it's too bad he couldn't do the full Snowflake scene, and didn't bother with other parts like the Waltz of the Flowers. The article is here in PDF: http://docs.google.c...gGV7jjdgg&pli=1

I know it's been discussed before, but I think it's a great read. So that would be my choice out of the DVDs available--but I'm very much a traditionalist, and aside from Swan Lake, Nutcracker is the one Russian ballet I wish someone would try to replicate with the original designs as much as possible even just as an experiment--it's no secret that the ballet got a very lukewarm reaction when it premiered, although it was steadily performed. (I remember either Vickharev or Lacotte spoke of trying to do a more faithful Nutcracker for a smaller Eastern European ballet company, but I can't find the quote or whether it ever was staged).

I always assumed one reason Nutcracker has such a strange history in the Soviet era was partly due to it being based around Chrsitmas, with religion looked down by the Soviet regime particularly in its early stages. I've read many productions even weren't allowed to say it was set at Christmas--but it seems that Nutcracker has always had a history in Russia--pre and post revolution--of being performed all year round, not just at Christmas.

It does surprise me that the two major Soviet productions discussed here--Grigorovich's and Vainonen's used adults for many of the roles, since Soviet ballet often kept the children's dances in other classical ballets when Western countries stopped. Both of those productions are fascinating, and hjave parts I love, but are also frustrating. Grigorovich's also has that very strange dark, and semi abstract, design by Virsaladze that looks dated now, and out of step with the ballet. Virsaladze also designed Vainonen's but more traditionally (he seemed to often do that--designing many of the Kirov traditional ballets in a more realistic style and then designing Grigorovich's in a much more stylized way). You can find the Bolshoi production on DVD for very cheap though and I think both are worth watching.

I'm not sure about the availability of Nureyev's, or Baryhnikov's (which, with ABT, used to be shown on TV when I was growing up a *lot*--it confused me as a kid to no end that the story was so different). Both are interesting if you become a Nutrcarcker completist, but like I said are not favorites of mine.

Otherwise... I'm not sure what's out there.

One question I hope someone can answer. When N Sergeyev did all those Russian ballet stagings from the notations for the Royal Ballet (back in the 30s when it was the Sadler's Wells), Nutcracker was one of them. I have the feeling it was dropped by the time they became the Royal Ballet--I know when Nureyev staged his version for them, they hadn't done it for a while. But it looks like it was an extremely traditional version (Markova danced the Sugar Plum Fairy originally). I read somewhere it was one of tehe early ballet telecasts they did. Has it survived anywhere? Recently we've seen the abridged Sleeping beauty TV broadcast they did early on, I would love to see anything from their Nutcracker.

(Congratulations to anyone who managed to read this entire post! Posted Image Posted Image )

#33 Birdsall

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Posted 26 November 2011 - 08:52 PM

I just watched the Chemiakin/Shemyakin version for the Mariinsky. What do people think of that choreography? Very modern dance moves at times that I was not expecting. I did enjoy it for something different, and I did not find it so dark and ugly as some reviewers on Amazon did. Still I am not sure I would recommend it as someone's only Nutcracker. I actually enjoyed watching it. Loved the green snake (Arabian dance). I don't understand everything that happened in this version. I will have to watch it again. It seems like Drosselmeyer was guiding everything to happen. I understand why some people find this to be an "ugly" production, b/c it does have a sort of "Nightmare Before Christmas" feel to it in some scenes especially the sets for the snow storm scene. But it is very entertaining. Never thought I would see the snowflakes going down on their butts and shaking their legs.....overall my favorite parts were the green snake and the Snow Queen. I also liked how the Dance of the Flowers had the dancers moving in unison but at different moments, so their arms and movements were like a wave effect. But what in the world was going on with Mother Gigogne and the children????? Grown men or some sort of beings came out of her skirt and beat up on babies. That was pretty bizarre!!! LOL What did that mean???

#34 theo

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 03:34 AM

I watched the Chemiakin/Shemyakin version for the Mariinsky last night. I'll cut right to the chase....HATED IT... First word that came to my mind was "Abomination". No insult directed at the dancers though. They were just doing their jobs.

#35 Birdsall

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 05:32 AM

theo, what did you think about the grown men punching or killing the babies when they came out of Mother Gigogne's skirts? That surprised me. I still don't understand what the point was. Everything else was okay as something different. I found it fascinating, but I don't think it should be someone's first Nutcracker. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. I really didn't like the men abusing the babies. It was the main thing I really did not understand. Why would they do that in the land of sweets? It made no sense. There was a dark element to this production but harming babies is way too dark for Nutcracker, in my opinion. Or did I misinterpret this? I wish someone knew what it meant and could explain it to me.

#36 lmspear

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:56 PM

[font=arial,helvetica,sans-serif][size=4]

theo, what did you think about the grown men punching or killing the babies when they came out of Mother Gigogne's skirts? That surprised me. I still don't understand what the point was. Everything else was okay as something different. I found it fascinating, but I don't think it should be someone's first Nutcracker. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. I really didn't like the men abusing the babies. It was the main thing I really did not understand. Why would they do that in the land of sweets? It made no sense. There was a dark element to this production but harming babies is way too dark for Nutcracker, in my opinion. Or did I misinterpret this? I wish someone knew what it meant and could explain it to me.


This is from the Wikipedia description of a typical "Punch and Judy" show:

As performed currently in the UK a typical show will start with the arrival of Mr. Punch followed by the introduction of Judy. They may well kiss and dance before Judy requests Mr. Punch to look after the baby. Punch will fail to carry this task out appropriately. It is rare for Punch to hit his baby these days, but he may well sit on it in a failed attempt to "babysit", or drop it, or even let it go through a sausage machine. Posted Image

Here's the link to the full, very detailed article: http://en.wikipedia..../Punch_and_Judy[/size][/font]

[font=arial,helvetica,sans-serif][size=4]Punch is a descendant of the Comedia Pulcinella[/size][/font]

#37 Marga

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:10 PM

About the Chemiakin production, also from Wlkipedia:

In 2001 he directed and designed the new surrealistic-grotesque Marinsky Theatre production of The Nutcracker which proved controversial (in it, the heroine Masha and the Nutcracker Prince, now married, are presumably killed by being turned into dolls atop a wedding cake at the end, with rats nibbling at the cake and rapidly approaching the top). The Mariinsky also produces the highly popular and more traditional 1934 Vasily Vainonen production of the ballet.


I guess it was meant to be just what you saw, Bart. At least one has a choice between versions to see,

#38 Natalia

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:12 PM

The Diaghilev troupe's ballet Chout ("Buffon"), by Prokofiev & Larionov (later Massine in another version?), is similarly derived from commedia dell'arte (via a Russian fairy tale)...and similarly brutal. In Chout's case, the leading character, a clown, sets into motion the killing of seven other clowns' wives...and it goes on to other brutality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chout

Also, as someone recently pointed out in a thread about Petipa's Harlequinade, at one point in the scenario, Harlequin is thrown off a balcony and breaks into little pieces, eventually put back together by the Good Fairy. In other versions Harlequin is thrown into a bag & beaten up...that's Commedia dell'Arte for you!

The polichinelles who beat-up the crying babies in the Chemyakin-Simonov Nutcracker are following in the 'glorious' tradition (ahum).

#39 Birdsall

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 06:24 PM

The Diaghilev troupe's ballet Chout ("Buffon"), by Prokofiev & Massine, is similarly derived from commedia dell'arte (via a Russian fairy tale)...and similarly brutal. In Chout's case, the leading character kills and dismembers seven wives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chout

Also, as someone recently pointed out in a thread about Petipa's Harlequinade, at one point in the scenario, Harlequin is thrown off a balcony and breaks into little pieces, eventually put back together by the Good Fairy. In other versions Harlequin is thrown into a bag & beaten up...that's Commedia dell'Arte for you!

The polichinelles who beat-up the crying babies in the Chemyakin-Simonov Nutcracker are following in the 'glorious' tradition (ahum).



I guess so. Somehow it did not seem like Commedia dell'Arte or Punch and Judy. But I guess it is derived from all that. Overall I found the Chemyakin Nutcracker fun and interesting except for that part. I didn't mind Harlequin being pulled apart and thrown off a balcony in Harliquinade even though it surprised me, but somehow punching and killing babies is too weird for me! LOL And that is funny b/c I spent 13 years in public schools and can complain about kids worse than the average person, so you would think I would like seeing them get beat up! LOL But I don't.

#40 theo

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Posted 15 December 2011 - 12:52 PM

theo, what did you think about the grown men punching or killing the babies when they came out of Mother Gigogne's skirts? That surprised me. I still don't understand what the point was. Everything else was okay as something different. I found it fascinating, but I don't think it should be someone's first Nutcracker. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. I really didn't like the men abusing the babies. It was the main thing I really did not understand. Why would they do that in the land of sweets? It made no sense. There was a dark element to this production but harming babies is way too dark for Nutcracker, in my opinion. Or did I misinterpret this? I wish someone knew what it meant and could explain it to me.



#41 theo

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Posted 15 December 2011 - 12:56 PM

Bart, I actually turned it off after the darned bees and right after Mother Gigogne appeared. Sounds like it was a good idea. I know babies cry, but punching them is absolutely out of the question! Posted Image

#42 MakarovaFan

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 07:36 PM

Despite the lack of authenticity in Baryshnikov's version, I love the film and have since it was first broadcast on CBS in 1977. Much of MB's choreography is lovely and his chemistry with Gelsey Kirkland is exquisite. It's also, to the best of my knowledge, the only complete ballet starring Kirkland and her tremendous talent captured on film.

But the film's strongest aspect has to be Kenneth Schermerhorn's interpretation of the score and the inspired playing of the National Philharmonic. There are dozens and dozens of recordings of the complete Nutcracker, but Schermerhorn's is in a class of its own. He captured the magic, darkness, fairy tale and romantic facets of Tchaikovsky's score in all their glory. The Grand PDD (or Pas de Trois in this version) has the perfect tempo and is performed with such romantic fervor and drama that I shed tears every time I hear it. Why this performance isn't on CD is baffling. My copy of the LP set wore out long ago. But I recently bought the LP set in mint condition which is the ultimate Christmas present!


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