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Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 05:27 AM

Did anyone go? It was sold out, and one of the most mixed-in-age audiences I've seen in awhile. A few kids, but mostly adults, young old and in the middle, and the audience seemed both excited and happy. (I'll write a review later. I liked it a lot, and was happy to see something new that was truly new, and not a pale copy of something else, or a turn-it-upside down for the hell of it version :) )

#2 sphillips

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 06:45 AM

I'm going Saturday night. Looking forward to your review :)

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 09:31 PM

Thank you! I wish I could go again. It was a good opening, I thought -- other opinions welcome, of course :) -- but I'm sure it will have tightened by Saturday. Please report!

#4 sphillips

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 09:03 AM

I loved it!! I'll write a review later. I'm not as technically proficient as some of you on this board, but I loved what I saw, especially the first act :)

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 12:31 PM

Forget technical proficiency :) Please write. We'd love to know what you loved about it.

#6 dirac

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 12:38 PM

I loved it!! I'll write a review later. I'm not as technically proficient as some of you on this board, but I loved what I saw, especially the first act Posted Image


I add my pleas to Alexandra's, sphillips. Those of us who can't see the performance depend on our posters' reports. Would love to read anything you have to say about it.

#7 sphillips

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 09:20 PM

I've danced probably every role in Nutcracker, staged many productions for my studio, and of course hear the music everywhere. What I loved most about this version is that it made the story truly come to life. I loved the first act when Clara wakes up in the middle of the night and is looking for her "toy'. The way it was staged, when her bed rises, and it appears that everything is happening underneath...to me it was a great job of conveying was it a dream, or really happening. The rest of the ballet continued in the same vein. The children dancing were outstanding! Especially Clara and the little boy who was supposed to be her Nutcracker/Prince. I loved the Snow scene and the ominous undertones, i.e. Clara being in danger of freezing or being lost in a snow storm. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this production put a different enough spin on a classic to make you pay attention, but like someone else here said, it didn't change the choreography and story just for shock value. I'm dying to see this again, and am tempted to travel to Brooklyn from DC to do so. I was literally in tears at the end of Act 1, which in my opinion is what set this apart from other Nutcrackers. Hope this is helpful. I'm a ballet nut and long time lurker, but so shy on this board :)

#8 Natalia

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 04:12 AM

Sorry but not everybody is jumping on board the Ratmansky Choo-choo. My family & I went to the final performance last night, starring Hallberg & Murphy. All in all, we were quite disappointed, with a few bright exceptions.

Positives: Tchaikovsky's glorious music, played in order & completely. Wonderful soloists and ensemble! (However, I noticed that Hallberg struggled a bit with his tours & landings...still coming back from his Bolshoi injury, it seems.) The JKO School's children were magnificently drilled and acted convincingly; kudos to them! Choreography? I liked the two very intricate and acrobatic pas de deux, as well as the nice ensemble dances, most notably the 'icy-menacing' Waltz of the Snowflakes. There was an innovative concept of 'mirroring' the child and the adult Clara & Nutcracker Prince in parts...but the child-like "aw, chucks!" moves by the adult Clara & Prince are straight out of the Mariinsky-Chemyakin &Simonov version (much more on that below).

Negatives, alas, outweigh the positives:

Damn bees! Seriously, the 4 silly male bees in the midst of what should be the most serious and lyrical segment of the work -- the Waltz of the Flowers - were the 'last straw' in what, to me, is an utterly irreverent and Imperial-Era-bashing take by Ratmansky. Exhibit A: in the climax to the waltz, the 4 bees gently lie down and repose in front of the footlights, each with a hand demurely by the face, as Petipa often designed for female corps in ensembles. Yuk. It's one thing to pepper an old ballet chestnut with comedy; it's another thing to insult the heritage by diminishing it with silliness. Ratmansky appears to be a comedic specialist...because he most certainly is not a grand romantic-classicist. (We can thank mostly Yuri Burlaka for the reverent pro-Petipa tone in the Bolshoi Corsaire, no doubt.)

'Chemyakin-on-the-cheap': I could fill a book listing the bargain-basement derivations from the ca-2000 Mariinsky Chemyakin version on display for ABT. Not only concepts...but even the designs, such as the first-scene kitchen strung with sausages, are nothing more than a Poor Man's Chemyakin! I felt like screaming at the unsuspecting audience (who lapped this up) and yelling 'This is not original. Wake up, people!' Where the Chemyakin-Simonov produces art, Ratmansky goes for Micky Mouse...with a cute little pale mouse running throughout the story, garnering the biggest guffaws and applause.

This is what 5 million bucks buys us in 2010/11?: Granted, the costumes (not the sets) were colorful and, in rare cases, such as the silvery romantic tutus for the snowflakes, truly sublime. However, many of the designs, such as petal skirted pinkish-red romantic tutus for the flowers, were just garish and even ill-fitting for some ladies (making them appear top-heavy). The best of the Act II diverts for me -- the Mirlitons dance - presented one of the ugliest costumes and dopey top hats on the 5 female dancers.

Worst of all: What the heck was up with the El Cheapo sets? ('Ratmansky Productions' seem to thrive on cheap-looking backdrops...e.g., Cinderella, Little Humpbacked Horse, ABT version of Bright Stream. What will it be for his Firebird? Let me guess: a bare red backdrop, maybe with one onion-dome stencilled in black.)

Let's go scene by scene and examine the sets:

Front curtain before the lights go down - Plain blue with a little white house in the corner. Not bad. At least the movable train and toys from the McKenzie-version's proscenium are gone.

Prologue in the kitchen - we've already established that this is Chemyakin on the cheap. A pale-colored, unluxurious version of the first scene of the Mariinsky's Chemyakin version, sausages and all.

Act I, scene 1 - Compare the spartan, mostly-undecorated Act I Stahlbaum living room with, say, the Joffrey's richly decorated, magical interior...or the Washington ballet's luxurious Georgetown residence...or NYCB...or countless Nutcracker living rooms across the USA and around the world. This was a plain-jane living room! Poor-poor-poor.

Act I, sc 2 - Living Room at midnight & transformation - Did a tree grow? No, the regular tree was wheeled off to audience-left wing and a few big branches wheeled in. No magic! No luxury! The big chair was effective and served the purpose of keeping our attention above the stage, so that we did not notice the cheapness of everything else.

Act I, sc 3 - the forest - a painterly backdrop evoking birch trees...nice but "not all that." Not worthy of "$5 million production" compared to lavish forests in hundreds of other productions I seem to have seen around the world. Snow? It barely fell. But at least there was some snow.

Act II - Kingdom of Sweets - the Art Nouveau-ish gate in the foreground, at the beginning, was nice, through which we first saw the divertissement characters cavorting as a group. Gates up....and we saw one of the poorest, plainest 'kingdoms' around...simply a flat aqua backdrop with etchings of the same art nouveau gate (a projection?). For the main pdd, the 'gates' projection is replaced by a large version of the little white house previously seen in the front curtain...flat, plain, with nary a hint of Tsarist-era luxury and magic.

Epilogue - curtain down and Clara's white bed has been placed front-stage center, where the final seconds play out. No pretty bedroom...just a bed in front of a curtain. Like we can see in 'Dolly Dinkle's Academy' in Podunk....actually, all of the Dolly Dinkle school productions I've seen are richer...[size=2]and I bet they didn't pay $5million for their sets/costumes/lights![/size]

Bottom Line: This is the 'Wal-mart Edition' of the Mariinsky's luxurious Chemyakin Nutcracker. I applauded for the dancers...and for Tchaikovsky.

#9 dancemom101

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 06:01 AM

sphillips: Thanks for the rave review. The young Nutcracker Prince saturday night is/was my DS! Posted Image

#10 sphillips

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 06:12 AM

You must be so proud dancemom Posted Image He is such a talented dancer! Does he attend the JKO school? I thought all of the children were outstanding, but your son and the little girl who played Clara had both my husband and I in awe. We truly loved the performance!

#11 dancemom101

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 06:23 AM

Hugely proud. Yes, he is a JKO student. Thank you so much.

#12 balletmor

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:04 PM

My son was one of the "Damn" Bees- and I am proud too! LOL

#13 dancemom101

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:18 PM

Balletmor....we Love the bees and my DS has probably spoken to him many times (he seems to know the whole co--they are all great!). Buzzzzz. :)

#14 sphillips

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:08 PM

You should be proud balletmor! I loved the bees too. There was a family siting next to us, and I heard her mom whisper "Wonder why there are bees in this act?" Her little girl, who was probably about ten, whispered back, "Bees pollinate flowers, Mom" Lol Just her tone cracked me up. I'm on the Ratmansky choo-choo! Still can't get over how much I loved this performance. I've never seen Xiomera Reyes dance before, and she just sparkled, in my opinion. Also, in my opinion, the kids nearly stole the show from the main company :)

#15 Alexandra

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:48 PM

I liked the bees, too, although several friends didn't. I had thought they'd be annoying and cute, buzzing about where they weren't wanted, but I didn't see them that way at all. I reviewed this for danceviewtimes (link on Links Posted Image ) and wrote that flowers need bees. Also, as several critics have pointed out , there were men in the original Waltz of the Flowers.

Congratulations to all the mothers! You should be proud. (And congratulations to the coaches who did such a great job with that many children.) Opening night was a bit rushed -- it always is, because of limited rehearsal time (the company just got there Wednesday, I believe, and I don't think they've danced this for a year), but this one was stage ready. I wish I could have seen it Saturday night! Partly to see other casts, but also to see how it settled in.

For those who missed it, I think ABT is headed for BAM with this soon. New Yorkers will know.

Editing to add: I checked BAM's site, and "The Nutcracker" opens there on December 14th.


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