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A pair of Nutcrackers


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#1 Dale

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:59 AM

Rather than my usual NYCB Nutcrackers (or even ABT's), I decided this year to attend two Nutcrackers in Connecticut. The first was put on by the Nutmeg Conservatory and performed at two of the performing arts theaters in the state. I saw them at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford. I was very impressed with this production. The sets and costumes were attractive. Even thought I'm most used to the Balanchine version and it is my favorite, I've appreciated other productions. The choreography here was similar to versions I've seen from the Joffrey or San Francisco Ballet. It wasn't watered down and made use of the entire school. It's surprising in a way, because it was choreographed by several members of the faculty, including teachers Kirk Peterson, Eleanor D'Antuono and Timothy Melady. Victoria Mazzarelli was the stager. Also impressive was the generous relaxed, though well-trained, manner of the young dancers. There were few pasted on smiles or tense shoulders. Watching the performances was a little like going to the SAB workshop - lots of dancers of promise to spot. And the men, as a whole, were much better than last year. Heather Gracy and Quincy Childs are two to watch. The only downside was the Drosselmeyer - I've never seen a dancer so hammy. He actually grunted several times. And mouthed the words during mime sections. Thankful the students outshone him.

The second performance was by the Connecticut Ballet at the Palace Theater in Stamford. This is supposedly a professional troupe.... I'll leave it at that. I mainly went to see Veronika Part and Alexandre Hammoudi. They were both beautiful to look at and elevated the production when they were on stage. Unfortunately, they performed the Ratmansky pas de deux, which looked totally out of place. And Part, who has slimmed down these last few years, wore an old schmata that was pinned badly around her bodice. It wasn't even a tutu. Nor was it a fluffy-styled skirt. It was something in the middle that looked like something I had in the back of my closet from when I was a young ballet student. I wish I could have seen her dance the more traditional pas de deux as she once had in ABTs previous production. At least there was beauty when the two were on stage. The rest of the production, I have to admit, was amateurish. Their best dancers are Oksana Maslova and Anton Kandaurova, who performed the Snow pas de deux and the Arabian pas and possibly several other parts! When they were on stage, things were professional. Jeremy Cox, who had always liked at SAB and Miami City Ballet, is also listed but I didn't see anybody dance as well as I know he can dance so I'm not sure if he performed.

All this is a shame because I used to come to Stamford to see a very sweet production of Balanchine's Nutcracker performed by Stamford's ballet school with SAB students as most of the principals and then NYCB and ABT principals doing Dew Drop and the grand pas de deux. A few years ago, the Palace Theater quit that arrangement.

#2 atm711

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 10:59 AM

I too saw a pair of Nutcrackers---Balanchine by Pennsylvania Ballet and the recent livecast of Peter Wright's Royal prouduction. loved the Clara in. this performance--Meghan Grace. Hinkis --of late a member of ABT. Of. the three female leading roles, this role has the most to offer..
and it was a pleasure to see the old Fedorova-Ballet Russe Grand PDD--(there ought to be a law that every Nutcracker include only this PDD---I can only imagine Veronica Part dancing it--surely made for each other). My. highest praise must go to Pennsylvania Ballet's admiral production of the Balanchine---my granddaughter was a Hoop.


#3 balletgirl22sk

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 01:20 PM

I also saw 2 Nutcrackers- one good, one very bad. Good and different was Sarasota Ballet's new Circus Nutcracker. New choreography, sets, and costumes- live orchestra.

Bad was Atlanta Festival Ballet- they call themselves a pro company????

#4 Jack Reed

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 08:44 AM

balletgirl22sk, would you like to elaborate? (Or was AFB just too bad to concentrate on enough to write more about? I don't want you to spoil your holiday...)

But I can certainly relate. In mid-December, I visited Fort Lauderdale and watched some of MCB's vital performances of Balanchine's Nutcracker, my continuing favorite, because his ballets look so much like the dancers are moving as the music tells them to, and in this one Mr. B. seemed to thrive on the range and variety of Tchaikovsky's instructions.

But back home in Chicago, there's Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair's choreography for Ballet Chicago, the school they run here, and if not quite so inspired at Balanchine's, it also seems to me more aware musically than, for example, Robert Joffrey's Nutcracker for the local company which bears his name did when I last saw it many years ago. And Ballet Chicago's Nutcracker not only sports a Snow pas de deux (to the adagio "Pine Forest" music) in Act I, it concludes with 3/4 of Balanchine's Sugar Plum pas de deux on the traditional four-part plan at the end of Act II. (Duell has supplied a Cavalier's Variation, in place of the Balanchine one, not seen since the late 50's and probably lost, I suppose.)

Typically, BC's shows may have some imported talent to head them up, often alumnae, but this year, when I saw the second weekend's performances, who performed the concluding pas de deux but Simone Messmer of ABT (ably partnered by Ted Seymour, who teaches at BC)! As a local sports announcer used to say when somebody hit a home run, Ho-ly Cow!. What a beautiful conclusion!

After seeing nine performances of these two ballets - not to mention reviewings of the 1993 Warner Brothers video of Kyra Nichols's Dew Drop and NYCB's corps in his Snow scene on the plane home from Florida - does this old kid still have visons of sugar plums dancing in his head? I think you know the answer. You even know some of the casting...

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 09:02 AM

I saw three Nutcrackers this year...two by MCB-(Balanchine)-and the CCBM-(Alonso-after-Fedorova based). Ditto with atm711 about the law needed on this Pas. I think its Adagio it outshines every single one in the classical repertoire in beauty and choreography, including SB's...(which gets a higher work up with the Spessitvtzeva's fish dives, not performed in the original). I too watched Sir Peter Wright's on my computer yesterday, and sent it as a Christmas card to my friend in France, so he could show it to his ill mother. I wrote to him.."even if you guys don't watch the whole thing, at least put that Grand Pas for her, please...".Posted Image

#6 balletgirl22sk

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 01:02 PM

I didn't want to say too much but......Sugar Plum was the one of the co-directors in her 50's!!! So was her partner. They had male guests in the party scene trying to dance who never took a dance lesson in their lives or so it looked. Choreography terrible- how many finger turns can you do??? Kids not well rehearsed- so called pro dancers horribly overweight and lacking any talent.

#7 bagg

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 02:06 PM

But back home in Chicago, there's Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair's choreography for Ballet Chicago, the school they run here, and if not quite so inspired at Balanchine's, it also seems to me more aware musically than, for example, Robert Joffrey's Nutcracker for the local company which bears his name did when I last saw it many years ago. And Ballet Chicago's Nutcracker not only sports a Snow pas de deux (to the adagio "Pine Forest" music) in Act I, it concludes with 3/4 of Balanchine's Sugar Plum pas de deux on the traditional four-part plan at the end of Act II. (Duell has supplied a Cavalier's Variation, in place of the Balanchine one, not seen since the late 50's and probably lost, I suppose.)

Typically, BC's shows may have some imported talent to head them up, often alumnae, but this year, when I saw the second weekend's performances, who performed the concluding pas de deux but Simone Messmer of ABT (ably partnered by Ted Seymour, who teaches at BC)! As a local sports announcer used to say when somebody hit a home run, Ho-ly Cow!. What a beautiful conclusion!


Jack, how about a more formal review of BC's Nutcracker? Any rising stars or dancers to follow?

#8 Jack Reed

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 09:10 PM

Why didn't I think of that? Here I'm asking for details when I could be giving some myself! (I like your style, bagg.)

Okay. In all four performances I saw the second weekend, already in the first scene, at the Christmas party, where there is more dancing and less pantomime than we often see, Meghan Behnke, who happens to be 11, as little Marie (Clara in other versions), was noticeable for the way she did everything with complete aplomb: She's completely at home on the stage; all her moves there carry into the house. If it's her character, she's fully in character; and where pantomime is replaced by dance, where, for example, she dances a circle (bordered by seated little girls), she dances with beautifully clear line. She's a more complete performer, one who inhabits her role, than some of her seniors, like some of the girls in the Snow corps, who move well enough but look a little vacant.

In Act II, the Nutcracker not appearing there in this production, it's she who tells the Sugar Plumb Fairy - mostly along the lines of the Ivanov pantomime preserved in Balanchine's staging - about the battle, and the victory (hers, apparently, because she's telling it, and if this doesn't make complete sense, because we have just seen in Act I the Nutcracker's triumph over the Mouse King, thanks to the distraction she causes by throwing her shoe at him, it's the production's fault, not the performer's).

In the remainder of Act II, she mostly sits downstage at one corner or the other, keeping her character alive and present in a subdued way but sometimes she gets up and shares a few sequences with the divertissement dancers. I'm not saying she carries the whole show, but she's more or less present in it, as called for at the moment.

Then there's another young woman who fills her roles completely but not to overflowing, either: Dana Coons danced the Snow pas de deux in some casts with a surprising (and very pleasing) maturity of performance for her 13 years, including continuing unruffled by sometimes inadequate partnering. She also led Marzipan in some casts with mastery and finish.

In previous years, the Russian dance, called Russian Kvas here, has been performed by five men, a leader and a corps of four; but for a few years, the lead has been female, who is not given the old masculine part but steps feminine but energetic and exuberant, and Elyse Jost looks a real firecracker in its quick jumps with arms thrown outward and so on.

So these may be three to watch for. I put it that way, because nothing is certain except now. (I can imagine Balanchine saying, Do it now!) I've seen some wonderful dancers, natural, talented, at whatever age, who disappear after some point and are never seen again. Circumstances interfere sometimes. We might say, it's a shame if they never dance more, but nothing can take away what they've already done.

I've said more overall about this production here and here. (Looking over my old reports in the Ballet Chicago forum, I see Coons was another effective Marie a few years ago.)


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