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NYCB Goes to the Movies -- with Balanchine's Nutcracker

197 posts in this topic

I finally watched my recorded version. The whole thing seemed a bit soul-less to me, honestly. I had high hopes for Bouder's Dew Drop after everyone's comments, and was impressed with the facility of her technique (which is undeniable), but her upper body and arms were staccato, not fluid, and she, overall, seemed very "hard". She did play with the music but it came off, to me, as jerky rather than particularly musical. I thought her best section was her entrance on the diagonal where the choreography is mostly jumps and turns--she was effortless rather than forced.

I did enjoy watching it, but like Jack I just felt like putting on the Kistler/Nichols production afterward.

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I liked her, and felt her interpretation was to make the fairy more flighty, rather like tinkerbell's quick movements.

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I finally got around to watching a recording of the tv broadcast, having seen only the performance filmed for the movies. Second-time-around was, for me, much more fun.

The time available for intermission features on Night Two (Wed.) was quite limited. The movie intermission was longer. I liked Chelsea Clinton's naturalness much more than Kelly Ripa's slightly frantic professionalism. Ripa, on the other hand, had time to explore some interesting stories and connected better with the kids during her interviews.

Megan Fairchild seemed much more more relaxed during the Wednesday performance than she had been the night before. Her upper body was less tight; her facial expressions were warmer and more consistent; she engaged more with Clara and the Prince, and with her Cavalier.. In general, I felt, "Here's a dancer having a good time." Maybe what struck me as limitations last Tuesday night were partly a matter of nervousness?

I looked more closely at Tea and Chocolate and was glad for the chance to rewind a couple of times. In Tea, Carmena (sp?) and his two ladies had speed, wit and precision. Mercifully, the "Chinese" gestural cliches built into the choreography were downplayed. Loved the speed and amplitude with which the Chocolate dancers slid and jumped across the floor.

Ashley Bouder was even better on Wednesday than on Tuesday. A richly danced, exhilarating Dewdrop, and one I won't forget.

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Over on the Miami City Ballet Nutcracker thread, bart wrote

Like you, I was underwhelmed by the NYCB Mother Ginger. Especially considering how amazing his/her kids were. (Maybe that was the point -- to make you focus on the kids by presenting the mother as almost a cipher.)

I too was surprised by how understated this was. I think I read somewhere that Ms. Ginger's antics had become increasingly exaggerated over the years (so perhaps that colored my expectations), and I wonder if at some point the order was given to tone them down. Perhaps some longtime NYCB watcher can provide some perspective here. carbro maybe? Was Scordato's performance typical, or do some of today's dancers play it broader?

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(from Ft. Lauderdale) My memory of the old days was that Mother Ginger was an animated old mother hen, concerned for her brood and a bit flustered, but still a show person and acknowledging the applause, while not upstaging the Polichinelles's antics. Shaun O'Brien? I don't remember for sure. MCB's Chase Swatosh, who may be all of twenty, seems to conceive the role much like that.

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The Mother Ginger of historic record was David Richardson, who was also children's ballet master for many years. He became so comfortable in the dress contraption that he could actually dance on his stilts, and do some pretty outrageous, outlandish miming! I really rather liked him.

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I finally watched the broadcast too, and have mixed feelings. I grew up with a "based on" version of Balanchine's ballet (Alberta Ballet's in the 1980s), and as kid, we had a picture book of it, so in many ways this is the Nutcracker I remember.

i think Act I is largely superlative--even the poor filming of the Snow scene still made me think of Ivanov's fabled 62 dancers forming stars, etc. The details in the dramas with the kids go beyond any other filmed production, amazing stuff (and amazing young talents).

Act II has more problems for me, and more than I expected. I forgot that Balanchine breaks up the order of the Grand Pas. Why? I know he said "Ballet is first by default in woman" but I feel nothing is gained from having the Sugarplum Ferry dance solo, and greet Marie and the Prince without her Cavalier (be he named Whoopingcough or not). The only reasoning I can think is to build her role in Act II as the ruler of the kingdom of Sweets and give a moment of pure ballet early on--but I think it's a poor choice and I really regretted the lack of a male solo for her cavalier. If I could change one thing about Balanchine's version, that's the most thing I would change. (I would have never got into ballet as a little kid if I didn't see how stongly the men danced and a brief bit in the PDD Coda--=as well as the great candycane trepak--might not have done it).

Still I do love the production so much--it's amazing how close the set is to the original set in design and purpose, and I love hommages like the "glide across the floor in an arabesque" moment during the PDD.

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The Mother Ginger of historic record was David Richardson, who was also children's ballet master for many years. He became so comfortable in the dress contraption that he could actually dance on his stilts, and do some pretty outrageous, outlandish miming! I really rather liked him.

As a kid, Mother Ginger wa my favorite part. From photographs it looks more like a man in drag with ballet students (similar I guess to the Hop O' My Thumb divertissement from Sleeping Beauty)-- Does anyone know if the skirt lifting part, with the students coming from under was in the original ballet, or added by Balanchine, or someone else?

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It seems to be fairly integral to the part. Petipa specified the inclusion of the old girl (and her interpreter, a rotund old mime named Yakolev) after "her" outstanding success in his ballet "The Wilful Wife". which was just his remake of the old ballet "Le Diable à Quatre". Ivanov dutifully provided the dance. Photos exist.

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there are historic photos from 1892 that show Mere G w/ a large-ish dress, tho' perhaps not so large as the current NYCB's prod, out of which seem to pop a polichinelle from each of the skirt's side 'pockets' or panniers? i don't know that it was slip in the front quite like Karinska's. if i can locate my book(s) w/ this pic i'll try to scan it.

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I think we're thinking of similar images, if not the exact same photos, and of those I always wondered whether Yakovlev were pictured wearing the entire costume, or just the "upper works" separate from the skirt assembly.

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I don't think I was clear, but that's the same photo I've seen. This image shows the costume but not, obviously, in use File:Vsevolozhskys_design_for_Nutcracker.jpgI guess I always have wondered if they came *out* of her skirt or just on stage at the same time as her. This is probably the wrong thread but while we're discussing the original production, several books (and Wikipedia shares this) show two settings for Act II,

I assume this one is for the opening (the journey scene? Wiley's notes are unclear and it sounds like the original notes are even less so) File:Nutcracker_design.jpg and then this (which is remarkably similar to File:Nutcracker_set_designs.jpg)

Back to the telecast my other big issue was that so much seemed to be filmed from an upper right box, ruining many of the gorgeous patterns Balanchine created (I felt it was really well filmed for the first act, but once the Snow scene came that all fell apart).

I think the more I compare the actual pas de deuxs from various productions--the more striking I find Ivanov's original (at least as done in the Royal Ballet Dowell/Collier clip) and how *musical* it is particularly contrasting Ivanov to Petipa (judging Petipa by the Sleeping Beauty PDD and Raymonda where he often choreographs more to the rhythm of the music than the actual music).

One thing I will add is I DO like Blanchine's use of the Sleeping Beauty entr'acte music. The similarities to the tree growing music are so strong, and it works--as does his whole first act.

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On another thread, Jack Reed mentioned the tradition of girls playing boys' parts. But the NYCB performance actually had a young woman playing Harlequin. I don't recall noticing that before. Is that a "tradition" at NYCB? What is the point, when the dancers not llitle kids? Were there no young men available to dance this?

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Harlequin and Columbine are both danced by women. I've never seen it any other way, and that goes back to the late 50s. The boy shortage was still manifesting itself into the early days of the '64 revision, but by that time, the party scene boys all wore big floppy berets, covering a multitude of hairstyles, including buns.

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Harlequin and Columbine are both danced by women. I've never seen it any other way, and that goes back to the late 50s.
Thanks for the correction, Mel. I guess I was unperceptive on this. Possibly due to the brevity of the dance and the absence of cameras? I did LOVE the springy motions of these two toys as they emerged from the box.

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The boy shortage was still manifesting itself into the early days of the '64 revision,

1964 revision? Has that been talked about here? I assume the revision was because of the move to the bigger theater.

Mel and Jack, thanks for sharing your memories of Mother Ginger.

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I finally watched the broadcast too, and have mixed feelings. I grew up with a "based on" version of Balanchine's ballet (Alberta Ballet's in the 1980s), and as kid, we had a picture book of it, so in many ways this is the Nutcracker I remember.

i think Act I is largely superlative--even the poor filming of the Snow scene still made me think of Ivanov's fabled 62 dancers forming stars, etc. The details in the dramas with the kids go beyond any other filmed production, amazing stuff (and amazing young talents).

Act II has more problems for me, and more than I expected. I forgot that Balanchine breaks up the order of the Grand Pas. Why? I know he said "Ballet is first by default in woman" but I feel nothing is gained from having the Sugarplum Ferry dance solo, and greet Marie and the Prince without her Cavalier (be he named Whoopingcough or not). The only reasoning I can think is to build her role in Act II as the ruler of the kingdom of Sweets and give a moment of pure ballet early on--but I think it's a poor choice and I really regretted the lack of a male solo for her cavalier. If I could change one thing about Balanchine's version, that's the most thing I would change. (I would have never got into ballet as a little kid if I didn't see how stongly the men danced and a brief bit in the PDD Coda--=as well as the great candycane trepak--might not have done it).

Still I do love the production so much--it's amazing how close the set is to the original set in design and purpose, and I love hommages like the "glide across the floor in an arabesque" moment during the PDD.

Eric,

I am glad you expressed dissatisfaction with placing the Sugarplum Fairy solo at the beginning and getting rid of her cavalier's solo. I totally agree, but I thought I was the only one who disliked this. Changing the order and taking out the cavalier's solo just seems jarring after seeing other versions.

The Royal Ballet version that I just watched with family for Christmas has changes too (Peter Wright). Clara and the Prince participate in the various dances in Act 2. At first I didn't like that but sort of thought it gave a continuity to the whole story. Usually, they sit in the back or off to the side and we forget they are part of the story. I thought it was actually an intriguing touch to have them take part in the national dances. Also, the Land of the Sweets set in Act 2 is shaped like a cake that the children eat in Act 1, so that gives even more continuity to the story.

Anyway, changing things up can be positive, but I have to say I have the same feelings about Balanchine's choices.

Bart

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I'm with you guys on the moving around of the SPF variation and the deletion of the male variation. But I have been able to get accounts of opinions in Petersburg about the ballet when Balanchine was still a student. Seems they didn't like having to wait to see the ballerina dance, and found the little male variation rather reedy-sounding, and not at all satisfactory as a male vehicle. When I found those things out, the changes made more sense. I still find them irritating, but now I know why they were instituted!

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I'm with you guys on the moving around of the SPF variation and the deletion of the male variation. But I have been able to get accounts of opinions in Petersburg about the ballet when Balanchine was still a student. Seems they didn't like having to wait to see the ballerina dance, and found the little male variation rather reedy-sounding, and not at all satisfactory as a male vehicle. When I found those things out, the changes made more sense. I still find them irritating, but now I know why they were instituted!

Mel, that does help me to understand and maybe accept Balanchine's decisions. Sounds like there might be a history of changing that up. Still I prefer leaving it intact, but I am glad to hear this. It makes Balanchine's decision sound less arbitrary. I wonder how Tchaikovsky would have felt about reordering the music. Just curious.

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I had a chance this weekend to watch the PBS broadcast as well as the 1993 DVD, and it's interesting (for me at least!) to see this company occasionally as an outsider, in contrast to many here who have grown up with it because it's always striking to me how unique this company still is today. Their combination of speed, attack, and musicality is pretty much unmatched anywhere else, and gives their dancing a unique quality. I remember being struck by the same things when I saw the Moves company recently, too. Sure, there are things you can carp about (the high shoulders, and the sometimes ungainly arm lines), but as a whole, this company is really still one of the dance treasures of the world.

On to specifics ... I am surprised no one else mentioned Hot Chocolate's Adrian Danchig-Waring who gave a weighty, core-of-the-earth quality to his role. When I first saw the movie theater broadcast, I thought, "Wow, he has great turnout!" Well he does, but what was really under that driving it was how into the ground he was, and how all his movement was initiated from the hips. It's almost like a modern take on that role. I wonder what he looks like in contemporary pieces. Anyway, for that alone, he was really unique, and I'd love to see him in other things.

Speaking of going into the ground, it was great to see ballet dancers who do dance into the floor too. I think this was really obvious in the dolls dance in Act 1, where you can see Harlequin in soft shoes pushing into the floor. Gen Horiuchi's Tea on the DVD also shows this off to great effect.

I'm not sure what else can be said about Ashley Bouder's Dewdrop that hasn't been said already. She gave a pretty phenomenal performance that really showcases what the company's about. For me, Waltz of the Flowers is really the center of this ballet.

Another thing that's kind of unique to them is spotting front (it's really clear in Bouder's role, but it's everywhere), but is there some inconsistency in this? During the 2nd half of snow (before the big harp solo figure), a column of 4 girls chaine-turn from stage left, and every other one of them was spotting front. The others were spotting side. It was alternated, so I'm not sure if that was intentional or a mistake.

The tempi between the DVD and the performance struck me as similar, that is, very fast!

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I'm disappointed that I missed the PBS broadcast. PBS SoCal (Los Angeles area) opted not to air it until Sunday, Dec 18th at 12pm (I got the time wrong so I missed it). They were supposed to rebroadcast it on Christmas eve at 2pm (on their 2nd channel) - their twitter feed even mentioned it - but later replaced it with a Jessica Simpson holiday special. Not that there's anything wrong with Ms. Simpson but I was looking forward to catching the Nutcracker.

I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed by PBS SoCal, considering they did show SFB's The LIttle Mermaid, but it's Christmas, for heaven's sake. Why can't they re-air The Nutcracker? :(

Not to mention, who broadcasts the Nutcracker on tv midday? Who's going to be home to watch it? It's as if PBS SoCal doesn't want anyone to watch.

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I saw this at a large new cinema in San Francisco - built on the site of a recently demolished department store called the Emporium, which was the equivalent of New York Macys for San Franciscans. The long lively and promising line that seemed to be waiting for Nutcracker turned out to be queuing up for a Tinker, Tailor preview and there were only forty or so of us in a huge theater with its temperature cooled down for a full crowd.

I liked the First act a lot - it seemed to be filmed in a coherent way - though you never were quite sure where you were sitting or how "deep" into the play your focus of attention was penetrating.

I think one of the problems of the Second act was that its mixtures of angles and distances undercut the timing of the dancers. Each type of shot - close, medium, short - seems to suggests a different tempo, so here you have in effect several films going on at the same time. The best distance I thought (and maybe Bart would agree) was from a right front balcony, where there was enough background to give a similar figure-to-ground relation that you would get in a theater.

Adrian Danchig-Waring was excellent, as Andre Yew points out - I saw him live a few years ago and I think in a video of Agon, and he has a a similar intense wirey dramatic weight as that of Jeremy Cox. Tiler Peck was like the old days with Balanchine, at least the early nineties, maybe like Melissa Hayden in her wildness. The grand pas solo of Megan Fairchild didn't have the quick back forth change of profiles, and the little cantering throws of feet forward (I don't know the name of that ballet step) didn't come off - in part because there was too much visual information competing in the background.

There's a wonderful quiet and dim clip somewhere online of Wendy Whelan's Arabian, which as much as anything captures the magic of NYCB Nutcracker.

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There were a number of complaints on this thread, including mine, about Chelsea Clinton's inability to do an interesting interview. Looks like we are not the only ones who feel that way.

http://www.nypost.co...cUCYS0JvX9hmLiL

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Hmmm. I was going to let all the Clinton comments not relevant to the quality of the broadcast pass by without comment, but tally ho. It's unclear to me how this article is relevant to to this thread, apart from earlier posts complaining that Ms. Clinton is benefiting from her status as a president's daughter, but since the matter has been raised again, I note that there are recent precedents: Jenna Bush Hager, Meghan McCain, and LIz Cheney have all landed television jobs without any obvious qualifications, and unlike other politicians' offspring Clinton has for most of her life, until the NBC gig, maintained a low profile. I have mixed views about this sort of thing, but they're not relevant here.

It would be superfluous in me to point out that Post has an obvious ax to grind........

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hear! hear! all NYPost regulars would be anti-Clinton in spades.

talk about unreliable sources for comment on Clinton-related matters.

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