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


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#151 ksk04

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 03:01 PM

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.

#152 Jayne

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 11:24 PM

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

#153 bart

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 06:25 PM

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.

#154 kfw

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 07:53 PM

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?

#155 Jack Reed

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 08:13 PM

(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.

#156 Mel Johnson

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 08:31 PM

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.

#157 EricHG31

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 03:26 AM

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.

#158 EricHG31

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 03:28 AM

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?

#159 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 04:24 AM

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.



#160 rg

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 07:23 AM

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.

#161 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 08:07 AM

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.

#162 EricHG31

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 10:53 AM

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 Posted ImageI 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) Posted Image and then this (which is remarkably similar to Posted Image)

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.

#163 bart

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 02:42 PM

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?

#164 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 02:58 PM

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.

#165 bart

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 04:04 PM

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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