cubanmiamiboy

Nutcracker 2012

38 posts in this topic

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I'm getting more and more into Balanchine's excellent staging of this ballet. Everything is so highly choreographed, down to the last detail. Wasn't one of the big complaints of the balletomani of the XIX century that the battle scene was full of confusion onstage and that no sense was to be made of it..? Not here. The battle scene with the children as soldiers has so many floor patterns that one wonders how these kids are able to follow through..they're so little..!

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Just a footnote here, from Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review: Forty Years of the New York City Ballet, where she lists the original cast for Act I, to give credit where it is due:

Scene 2: The Battle Between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King (choreography by Jerome Robbins) ...

Oooh...! Good to know about this, Jack!

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Robbins had some detractors for imposing elements into his dances that no one - or no one else - heard in the music he chose - for example, is there anything about dancers' vanity in Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun? - but everybody gave him credit for moving people around the stage in effective, legible patterns.

And I also feel that "Snow" and "Flowers" are the high points of this ballet - on the flight home to Chicago I had a good time with those parts of the 1993 Warner Brothers video of Nutcracker before my battery started to run down from repeating them - but like Cristian I also enjoy the moment-by-moment unfolding of this great fantasy, the superb invention of the fascinating details, the pacing, the architecture, if I may say so, realizing before our eyes what Tchaikovsky conceived, or so it looks; and ballet that looks like the dancers are doing what the music tells them to ranks high with me. So thanks for your detailed written appreciation of it, Cristian. That's part of what's valuable about BA! - it brings some of the experience back again.

(That was a tasty meal, by the way, and inexpensive, too, and especially considering that Don Arturo is not so far from the BCPA, I may well visit it again. But in the light of MCB's current programming, it won't be very soon, I'm afraid.)

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I may have picked the wrong weekend to visit Florida! Two Catoya SPF's and a Zien Dew Drop! I'm back in Chicago this weekend, consoling myself with watching Ballet Chicago, Chicago's Balanchine-oriented ballet school, dance Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair's Nutcracker, which this year restored Balanchine's four-part pas de deux to the end of Act II. I mean, Adagio, Male Variation*, Female Variation, and Coda. (The rest of the slightly abridged ballet is Duell and Blair's choreography - not bad, musically aware, generally, but not on Mr. B's level.) Simone Messmer from ABT performed with Ted Seymour, who is seen here and with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. (Ellen Green of RDB, a BC alumna, danced Dew Drop.) Well, how would I know?

*Daniel Duell's choreography, I gather; when I first posted this, I was under the mistaken impression - given by some ambiguity in the program credits - that this was the seldom-seen Balanchine choreography. Frankly, it looked maybe less-well maintained or something than the three parts in regular performance, not unlike the Servants section restored to Prodigal Son by TSFB in November.

Edited by Jack Reed

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... restored Balanchine's four-part pas de deux to the end of Act II. I mean, Adagio, Male Variation, Female Variation, and Coda.

Did Balanchine at any point choreographed the whole PDD...? I mean, I know about his inclusion of the male characters of the divertissements in the Adagio in his first attempt, but I didn't know he had choreographed a male variation too at one point. When did that happened...? Was Dragee's variation also in the right place at one point also...? I didn't know that either. Please, shred some light on the subject..!

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According to the online Balanchine Catalogue, by deduction, the original PPD format -- adagio, variation, variation, coda -- was in Balanchine's original in the traditional spot. According to the revision history, in 1958, for the TV broadcast and the remainder of the season, the Sugarplum Fairy's variation was moved to the beginning of the act and four cavaliers (Candy Cane, Tea, Coffee [then a man], and Spanish) partnered the Sugarplum Fairy in the PDD with no variations. In "1959, adagio and coda of GRAND PAS DE DEUX restored with Cavalier, replacing PAS DE CINQ, but without variation for Cavalier; Sugar Plum Fairy variation retained at beginning of Act II," which shows that there was a Cavalier's variation in the original production.

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...there was a Cavalier's variation in the original production.

but which may not have been seen since 1959; nor this week in Chicago: I learned this evening that while Ballet Chicago is presenting a Cavalier's Variation in the traditional place, the choreography of it is by Daniel Duell.

I've corrected myself above; I regret my error.

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Oh...how interesting..! I wonder if anybody has any recollections here of the original Grand Pas, or if any explanation is known by B on his elimination of the male variation...

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Unfortunately, the TV show won't help. In theory, Balanchine's original PDD should be very close to what we see today without the Cavalier's solo, because there are no other major revision notes, except for the slide -- the Sugar Plum Fairy puts her point on a slide mechanism and is dragged along in arabesque -- which had been a balance in place. I think it's safe to presume that because he preferred the Sugar Plum Fairy variation at the beginning of the act, it made little sense to have just a Cavalier solo or to find some other less famous music to interpolate for another solo, but the act is long enough as it is. Maria Tallchief described the first "Nutcracker" and how stressful it was to, having danced nothing until then, hear the shouts and ovation for Tanaquil Leclerq's Dewdrop, wondering if the PDD would equal it. (It did.) Perhaps this, plus Balanchine's designation of her partner as a Cavalier, not a Prince, made it an easy decision not to give him a solo outside the brief one in the coda. I find the solo in the beginning to be very gracious.

I wrote "should," be very close, because there was at least one significant change in the Sugar Plum Fairy variation. Kyra Nichols performed the original in one performance I saw, where instead of moving turns, she did quarter turns in place, like hitting compass points.

Kent Stowell also uses a similar format, except the man is the Nutcracker Prince, and he gets his solo, too, at the beginning of the second act. The adagio goes straight intothe coda, and the kids in the Dollhouse scene (set to the Mother Ginger music) introduce the coda.

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So, basically, there is no account of Balanchine having ever staged the whole 4 parts Pas.

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Yes, there is: in "Repertory in Review," there's a mention, but not a description of specific choreography, except for adding the mechanical slide in place of the balance in the adagio. The revisions wouldn't say that the PDD was removed in 1958 for the TV broadcast and replaced by Pas de Cinq, but the SPF variation was moved to the beginning of the act unless the SPF was in the PDD when it premiered, and they also wouldn't say when the PDD was restored in 1959 that the Cavalier's variation was not put back in, had it not been there in the first place.

What aren't documented completely are the other changes to the adagio, SPF variation, and coda choreography, but the structure has been the same since 1959 -- SPF at the beginning of the act and adagio/coda at the end.

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Just stumbled upon this (old!) discussion doing some research for my dissertation and thought I'd chime in: the 1957 TV version (broadcast on the Seven Lively Arts) had a full "normal" PDD w/ variation for cavalier. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has a copy and I'd assume the NYPL might as well. Thought it might help some future scholar scrounging for information!

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