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


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#121 Barbara

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 08:41 AM

Thanks, Ray. It's the lift at 3:53 and 4:02. It seems to be the same in the pdd with Kistler and Woetzel so I suppose that's how it's meant to be. Just not a pretty lift imho. Btw, how do they create the traveling arabesque en pointe? It's magical.

#122 Ray

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 08:52 AM

Thanks, Ray. It's the lift at 3:53 and 4:02. It seems to be the same in the pdd with Kistler and Woetzel so I suppose that's how it's meant to be. Just not a pretty lift imho. Btw, how do they create the traveling arabesque en pointe? It's magical.


It is a toughie, I'll admit that, but I think it's meant to be a smooth part of a dance phrase, even while it marks a climax in the music. But yes, tough to pull off, and crotchy, especially on film. The traveling arabesque just entails the ballerina pique-ing firmly onto a little square of marley, which is then pulled from the wings.

#123 ksk04

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 10:30 AM

Thanks, Ray. It's the lift at 3:53 and 4:02. It seems to be the same in the pdd with Kistler and Woetzel so I suppose that's how it's meant to be. Just not a pretty lift imho. Btw, how do they create the traveling arabesque en pointe? It's magical.


You can see how it is done here: http://video.nytimes...erformance.html (Wendy Whelan demonstrates at about 1:40).


The "crotch" shot seems necessary in Nutcrackers at that moment in the music. The traditional pdd has the big pas de chats en l'air that always seem just as awkward to me.

#124 Ray

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 10:52 AM


Thanks, Ray. It's the lift at 3:53 and 4:02. It seems to be the same in the pdd with Kistler and Woetzel so I suppose that's how it's meant to be. Just not a pretty lift imho. Btw, how do they create the traveling arabesque en pointe? It's magical.


You can see how it is done here: http://video.nytimes...erformance.html (Wendy Whelan demonstrates at about 1:40).


The "crotch" shot seems necessary in Nutcrackers at that moment in the music. The traditional pdd has the big pas de chats en l'air that always seem just as awkward to me.


I agree--there's actually something un-classical about that kind of partnered pas de chat: in the classical vocabulary as I understand it, partnering should enhance the quality already inherent in a movement. Pas de chats are fast and brilliant snapshots, so partnering them should (again in the classical vocabulary) involve a fast "throw" to be true to the spirit of the movement, while grand jetes already contain the illusion of an extended and ever-extending trajectory--the lift just traces that out in slow motion.

#125 bart

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 11:25 AM

OFF TOPIC: Thanks, Ray, for the following. I continue to learn so much while reading Ballet Alert. Your word picture -- and analysis -- are the kind of revelation that makes me want to read my fellow-members' posts attentively.

there's actually something un-classical about that kind of partnered pas de chat: in the classical vocabulary as I understand it, partnering should enhance the quality already inherent in a movement. Pas de chats are fast and brilliant snapshots, so partnering them should (again in the classical vocabulary) involve a fast "throw" to be true to the spirit of the movement, while grand jetes already contain the illusion of an extended and ever-extending trajectory--the lift just traces that out in slow motion.



#126 MakarovaFan

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 12:21 PM


Thanks, Ray. It's the lift at 3:53 and 4:02. It seems to be the same in the pdd with Kistler and Woetzel so I suppose that's how it's meant to be. Just not a pretty lift imho. Btw, how do they create the traveling arabesque en pointe? It's magical.


It is a toughie, I'll admit that, but I think it's meant to be a smooth part of a dance phrase, even while it marks a climax in the music. But yes, tough to pull off, and crotchy, especially on film. The traveling arabesque just entails the ballerina pique-ing firmly onto a little square of marley, which is then pulled from the wings.


I remember Suzanne Farrell discussing this in her memoirs that she and Mr. B came up with this step. Am I recalling correctly?

#127 Eileen

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 12:33 PM

Two questions: What is marley? And is there in existence a film of the 1958 Nutcracker broadcast on CBS with Diana Adams? Is it in the Paley film archive in NYC? That broadcast is one of my earliest memories of television, and my first of ballet. I'd love to find it.

#128 carbro

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 12:36 PM

Eileen, Marley is the covering used on ballet floors that gives just the right amount of traction. Not as slippery as wood.

...in the classical vocabulary as I understand it, partnering should enhance the quality already inherent in a movement.

Although one might argue that part of Balanchine's enormous contribution was to expand each step's "inherent" quality of each step. This lift, I believe, is supposed to trace an arc while it covers space.

#129 lmspear

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 01:47 PM

http://www.nytimes.c...er glide&st=cse

This link is to a review of the debut performance of Fairchild and De Luz in Nutcracker. Bouder was Dewdrop and Hendrickson was Drosselmeier. It doesn't seem like much has changed. I haven't seen the broadcast yet. My PBS station, WETA, will show it on 12/20/11.

#130 Ray

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 05:25 PM

...in the classical vocabulary as I understand it, partnering should enhance the quality already inherent in a movement.

Although one might argue that part of Balanchine's enormous contribution was to expand each step's "inherent" quality of each step. This lift, I believe, is supposed to trace an arc while it covers space.


Or--simultaneously--that his contribution was to reveal more sharply what "classical" meant (i.e., not just wearing pointe shoes and doing ballet steps).

#131 nysusan

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 08:26 PM

Here's a link to the PDD; if you can identify the time (minutes:seconds) where the lift occurs in the vid, then maybe I can put in my two cents (or, see if these dancers do it better). I'm thinking you mean the lift at 3:52.

Ray, thanks for posting this, I haven't seen it in so long! I'm not a big Kistler fan, but to my eyes this is so much more enjoyable than what we saw on Wed. Kistler luxuriated in the steps, her dancing had amplitude, warmth and allure.

We have only Martins to blame for the casting but seriously - NYCB has NUMEROUS ballerinas who regularly grace the stage in NY as the Sugar Plum Fairy and deliver luminous performances on a regular basis. Kowroski, Mearns and Peck are my favorites but Somogyi and Ringer are also beautiful. Bouder and Reichlin have assumed the role more recently and IMO, are not in the same league but still give lovely performances that are much more expressive & nuanced than Fairchild's. Too bad the world couldn't have seen one of them.

Bart - regarding the tempo - I've always felt that Otranto went for pretty moderate tempos compared to other NYCB conductors. They have always favored brisk tempos, especially their principal conductors, Karoui and Andrea Quinn before him.

#132 carbro

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 09:48 PM

I'm not a big Kistler fan, but to my eyes this is so much more enjoyable than what we saw on Wed. Kistler luxuriated in the steps, her dancing had amplitude, warmth and allure.

Perhaps aided by the security that, in the studio shooting, if she messed up, they could retake.

I've always felt that Otranto went for pretty moderate tempos compared to other NYCB conductors. They have always favored brisk tempos, especially their principal conductors, Karoui and Andrea Quinn before him.

Interesting. I find Otranto the fastest of the bunch. While I acknowledge that Karoui and Quinn can/could be brisk, it's Otranto who most often makes me wish that she'd hit the brake pedal.

#133 Jack Reed

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 09:51 PM



... Btw, how do they create the traveling arabesque en pointe? It's magical.

The traveling arabesque just entails the ballerina pique-ing firmly onto a little square of marley, which is then pulled from the wings.


I remember Suzanne Farrell discussing this in her memoirs that she and Mr. B came up with this step. Am I recalling correctly?


Yes, you are, MakarovaFan. (May I say in passing that I'm happy a Makarova fan can be a Nichols fan, too?) Here's what Farrell says (Holding On to the Air, p.100):

... During one of the most climactic moments of the pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier in The Nutcracker [Balanchine] declared, uncharacteristically, that he wanted to try what could only be called a visual trick. He arranged for a small, thin metal slide, pulled by wires, to be cranked invisibly across the stage and, instead of doing the usual choreography, I was to step onto the slide en pointe, in arabesque, holding my partner's hand while two stagehands, in opposite wings, pulled the wire and me across the stage. The effect was magical, and to this day audiences are thrilled and baffled by the seemingly impossible feat. Mr. B. was equally thrilled with his optical illusion, and I was thrilled to be his guinea pig.


To judge from the context, this seems to have happened in 1963 or 1964; and although Farrell's introduction to her book is undated, the book is copyright 1990, so that's what I take to be the meaning of her phrase "to this day"; and the discussion here shows that the effect endures to this day.

(I think carbro's description of marly is correct, but the plate isn't marly; my undertanding is that marly, something like linoleum, is thick stuff, and would be more visible and thus less magical to the audience. (Watching Ballet Chicago's Ellen Green and Bobby Briscoe in Balanchine's "Sugar Plum pas de deux" this evening, I even looked for it, but could barely make out a dark spot under Green's supporting foot, no more than a shadow, except that it was there before she stepped onto it. Exclamations to be heard scattered about the audience, of course!))

And I agree about the luxuriant amplitude of Kistler's dancing in the video. As I recall, it was evident in the theater too, not just in the studio, and we could believe she was the girl with four wrestler-brothers who had loved it when they picked her up and threw her around. She looked as though movement was a necessary luxury to her. (Frank Lloyd Wright was supposed to have said, "Never mind the necessities, it's the luxuries I must have!")

#134 Jayne

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 01:54 AM

The Kelly Ripa backstage bits are now on youtube. An example is here:



#135 MakarovaFan

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 04:34 AM

Yes, you are, MakarovaFan. (May I say in passing that I'm happy a Makarova fan can be a Nichols fan, too?)

Thank you, Jack! Yes, I certainly am a Nichols fan.


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