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The Nutcracker's heroine/ballerina problem.


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 10:20 AM

The different incarnations of the Nutcracker ever since Vsevolozhsky't times and the way it should/would appear to balletic audiences seems to be very intertwined with the fact that the heroine of the ballet ,Clara, wasn't designed since the beginning to be a full grown ballerina.  Stanislava Belinskaya seems to be wearing pointe shoes in the few pics that have surfaced online, but it still remains a mistery how much did she actually danced all along the ballet, either at the party scene, or if anything during the transformation scene and act II.  (I hope Doug Fullington could be reading this so he could give us some hints as to what she really did dancing wise). Then, from Vainonen to Fedorova to Balanchine and Sir Peter Wright, everybody has had to deal with this problem and HOW to make sense of the fact that the main ballet couple, Fee Dragee and Prince Coqueluche, don't show up to dance until the very end of the production.  Some, like Balanchine, Sir Peter Wright and Alicia Alonso, decided to keep the libretto intact, being Act II a fete offered to Clara, although neither in Balanchine's or Alonso's does Clara gets up her seat, whereas in Wright both she and the Nutcracker adult dancer keep joining the dances. 

Now, the Soviet era stagers-(notably Vainonen)- seem to have gone for a totally different approach, by using only one Principal dancer for both roles, and by basically morphing Clara into Fee Dragee in Act II, so she can be seen all along the production as THE ballerina.  Now, this goes against the original libretto, for which in Vainonen's Act II, the whole thing is just a dancing divertissement offered to no one in particular.  The whole concept of the offering fete gets lost.  For what I can tell Russians still like this approach-(Misha used Kirkland to dance the whole thing in his staging, and I believe Ratmansky does it too).

Vaiinonen, Wright and Alonso use adult Claras and so they dance quite a bit in Act I, although the Cuban Clara-(who is NOT a principal dancer, but usually an up and coming soloist)- keeps seated in Act II. I think the Royal also uses a soloist for Clara and the big shot gets reserved for Fee Dragee and Coqueluche.  Balanchine goes for a completely non dancing/child Clara.  Balanchine, on the other side, dramatically diminished the appearance of Prince Coqueluche by suppressing his variation.

 

In my personal view, I like for a Nutcracker to follow Vsevolozhky's libretto.  Usually Balanchine doesn't engage me that much up until the snow scene due to the overly infantilized environment of Act I, and in I believe the Russians are happy to receive their ballerina heroine onstage early in the night.

 

How do you like this situation to be resolved...?

And...how did Petipa work on this matter...? DID BELINSKAYA ACTUALLY DANCED...?

Who should take the big bouquet..Clara or Fee Dragee...?



#2 trieste

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 08:17 PM

While I don't have any answers in regards to historical precedent, I have to say, overall... I find the Nutcracker a sweet, sticky mess of a ballet. I'd be interested to see a reconstruction, but as a whole the Nutcracker is fluff; the junk food of the classical rep. I often hear people say they have trouble taking Coppelia seriously, but I'd rather see Coppelia any day over the Nutcracker, given an equally talented cast...or even a slightly inferior one. But Coppelia has always been a favorite, and I did spend a good portion of one of my childhood years getting the Nutcracker drilled into my head for a December performance, so I admit bias.

 

Because of it being a train wreck in my eyes, I prefer when Clara and Fee Dragee are merged. I only say this because there's no significant plot... I just want to see the dance and hear the music, without being asked to invest in such a flimsy story.

 

Are there any somewhat traditional Nutcracker productions that manage to pull a genuinely compelling story out of the concept? Compelling to adults as well as children, that is -- not that there's anything wrong with a kid-friendly ballet!



#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 December 2013 - 12:03 AM

Well, Trieste...I haven't seen the RB production live, but I grew up with Alonso, who basically took the main survival dancing design of Fedorova-(Grand Pas in Act II and Snow Queen and King segment in Act I danced to the "Le Voyage"/transformation scene music)- plus additions made to make the whole thing more "balletic", like the mice danced by female on pointes and the soldiers by grown danseurs. This way the ballet ends up with three different adult dancing couples-(Clara/Nutcracker, Snow couple and Dragee/Coqueluche)-which sort of suppresses the usual boredom of having to way for Dragee and Coqueluche to see ballet.  Wright's scheme feels satisfactory to me too and so Vainonen's-(dancing wise that is, for which I'm against changing the original libretto).  I have read that Fedorova's method was to minimize the party scene to almost nothing in order just to jump to the snow section and right into Confituremburg.  According to Alonso, she wanted to recreate this design by building everything up to climax on the Grand Pas de deux.  She has also have said that even though the Snow couple wasn't in the original libretto, its inclusion had always been a success in Fedorova's production and so she would keep it intact too.

 

My curiosity deals more with the way the Imperial production presented Clara. She seems quite young in the old photos, but old enough to do stuff on pointe.



#4 Natalia

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Posted 15 December 2013 - 06:37 AM

The all-adults-on-stage craze, in Russian/Eastern Euro versions, began with the Vainonen version at the Kirov in the early 30s. I know, Westerners usually hate it, having been brought up with the concept of 'real kids' on stage.

 

Just think of all of the ballet academies & pro companies in North America that wouldn't be able to mount Nutcrackers (and thus help their finances) if the West also believed that only professional adult dancers should dance the 'children' in Act I!

 

p.s. Even Vainonen had 'kids' in the Act II Pas de Trois ('flutes') but everyone remembers that the Act I kids are danced by adults.



#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 December 2013 - 09:41 AM

But then there were the early pre Fedorova, pre Christensen, pre Balanchine western stagings of the ballet, like Sergueev for the Vic-Wells in the 30's, starring Markova.  That production I believe was also an all adults one, and even on that one I would like to see how the role of Clara was portrayed, given the fact that it was probably the closest to the Imperial one.  I don't mind real kids onstage, but my curiosity arises with the question on how to morph a real child onstage with one that is already capable of pointing dancing.  Petipa seems to have done it with Belinskaya, but the extent of it is what is still obscure.



#6 Alymer

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Posted 15 December 2013 - 03:21 PM

It's perhaps worth looking at the website of the Berlin Ballet.  They premiered a production by Yuri Burlaka which is based on the original Ivanov choreography, using Petipa's libretto and the versions of the original designs.  There are several photographs and a Marie (or Clara) clearly dancing on pointe.  But obviously one can't tell to what extent they have adapted the production.



#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 December 2013 - 04:40 PM

Oh yes..that's right..! Even though Burlaka didn't seem to have used the Stepanov notations, just being faithful to the original in terms of costume design must had make for a replica of Belinskaya.  I also wonder if he didn't dig even a bit on the collection for this production..hum...



#8 Alymer

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 06:27 AM

My German is pretty poor but as far as I can make out they have used actually the Stepanov notation - and that would certainly be consistent with his other productions.



#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 06:19 PM

Oh, so this was a complete reconstruction then...? Wow...



#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 08:46 PM

To make things more complicated, I just read an article in Danceviewtimes-(at this moment my computer is misbehaving and I can't copy/paste stuff)-where there's an account of the Berlin production.  Aside from stating that Burlaka did indeed look at the choreographic notations, there are a couple of interesting factors related to Clara and the "ballerina issue" in the Nutcracker.  According to the account, apparently Clara the child-(on pointe)-becomes adult Clara at one point-(I assume during the Le Voyage" scene, AKA Transformation Scene), where also the Nutcracker soldier of the battle becomes Prince Coqueluche.  This seems to follow Vainonen/Grigorovitch scheme.  Then it looks like they both arrive at Konfituremburg where Clara is crowned Fee Dragee and so then we have the main ballet couple appearing as early in the production as in Act I.  Act II introduces yet another character...the Queen of Konfituremburg, who is Prince Coqueluche's mother.  Now...I don't know if this "new" character for whom the fete is offered-(as she can be seen seated in the background)-is accurate to Vsevolozhsky's libretto, but it seems to resolve the problem of Vainonen's, which lacks a watcher character.  I always thought that in the Imperial production Clara and whoever escorted her to Act II were greeted by Fee Dragee and the matryoshka dolls/Nutcracker sisters-(just as with both Wright and Balanchine's stagings).   In every single production I've seen Prince Coqueluche doesn't take a big role in the events.  In Wright's he's a little more visible, appearing alongside Fee Dragee right before Clara shows up, but in Balanchine's he does not...only showing up for the Grand Pas. 

 

WHERE CAN I FIND AN ONLINE TRANSCRIPT OF THE ORIGINAL LIBRETTO..?



#11 rg

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 05:35 AM

the following comes from an email sent me by a Moscow historian colleague of Burlaka's. the statement, or my paraphrase of it, was posted on this site early in the process of planning this NUTx for Berlin:

<<

Yuri underlines that Nutcracker in Berlin won't be reconstruction so he kindly asks do not anticipate it. But as always this production will have ancient imperial look))

>>

the photos of the final result, also posted as a link on this site, more or less confirm that this was a production w/ a basis in the 1892 but hardly a full-scale reconstruction.



#12 volcanohunter

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Posted 23 December 2013 - 11:17 PM

Well, Trieste...I haven't seen the RB production live, but I grew up with Alonso, who basically took the main survival dancing design of Fedorova-(Grand Pas in Act II and Snow Queen and King segment in Act I danced to the "Le Voyage"/transformation scene music)- plus additions made to make the whole thing more "balletic", like the mice danced by female on pointes and the soldiers by grown danseurs. This way the ballet ends up with three different adult dancing couples-(Clara/Nutcracker, Snow couple and Dragee/Coqueluche)-which sort of suppresses the usual boredom of having to way for Dragee and Coqueluche to see ballet.  Wright's scheme feels satisfactory to me too and so Vainonen's-(dancing wise that is, for which I'm against changing the original libretto).  I have read that Fedorova's method was to minimize the party scene to almost nothing in order just to jump to the snow section and right into Confituremburg.  According to Alonso, she wanted to recreate this design by building everything up to climax on the Grand Pas de deux.  She has also have said that even though the Snow couple wasn't in the original libretto, its inclusion had always been a success in Fedorova's production and so she would keep it intact too.

 

There is a recent film of the Alonso version, but the wrinkle is that it was performed in Canada with a local ballet school, so the children in the party scene, with the exception of Fritz, were danced by actual children. Clara was danced by an adult only in the battle and snow scenes; otherwise she was performed by a student who did all her dancing in soft shoes. There were mice performed by young children in addition to the main army of adult female mice, but no child toy soldiers.

 

What I found most disconcerting is that at least in the film the tree does not grow, and therefore there is no sense of the proportions of Clara's world changing. And the Nutcracker undergoes no physical transformation following the battle; he looks "liberated" from the outset. But I have to emphasize that I saw a version edited to fit into a one-hour TV slot with commercials, and I cannot compare it with the ballet as it is danced in Havana. I saw a truncated party scene, complete battle and snow scenes, Chinese and Russian dances, Mirlitons, Flowers, Sugarplum Fairy variation and final waltz. Supposedly a complete performance also exists. http://www.tricordme...a/entertainment



#13 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 03:17 AM

Well, Trieste...I haven't seen the RB production live, but I grew up with Alonso, who basically took the main survival dancing design of Fedorova-(Grand Pas in Act II and Snow Queen and King segment in Act I danced to the "Le Voyage"/transformation scene music)- plus additions made to make the whole thing more "balletic", like the mice danced by female on pointes and the soldiers by grown danseurs.

 

To quote Mel from 2007:

 

Actually, the Snow pas de deux dates back to the Pavlova Touring Company's repertoire from the nineteen-teens. The choreography was, I believe, the product of Ivan Clustine, who also partnered Pavlova. It was a "number" that would include grand music for an adagio, and then be joined by a corps de ballet for the Waltz of the Snowflakes. It was kept in productions of Nutcracker partly in tribute to Pavlova, and partly to avoid the expensive and complex transformation which is supposed to go with that music.  

 

        And Ruth Page also used a pas de deux couple, but of course she had also been a Pavlova dancer.



#14 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 03:31 AM

Actually this is basically it, performed a few years ago by a student group. The choreography for the couple (pas de deux, coda etc.) has been left basically the same with only a few small tweaks though that for the corps is almost entirely different.

 




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