Alexandra

What Nutcrackers are you seeing?

66 posts in this topic

I hope we're not boycotting Nutcracker this year! 'Tis the season.

What's your Nutcracker like this year? Please report!

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I was planning to boycott. I know it's practically blasphemy, but I really hate the Nut, and I don't even live in the USA where it is ubiquitous. However, I'm going to see Bourne's "Nutcracker!" in the hope that it will be a bit different and will cure me of my prejudice.

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I wonder why should we boycott Nutcracker? The Nutcracker season is where most small campanies earn their incomes isn't it? Anyway I am planning to see most of the performances put out by the local companies in my city. They need all the supports they can get. :)

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Good for you, Maxi. I hope you'll tell us about them. Some of the most interesting Nuts I've seen are from the smallest companies. They're not grand ballet, so often subscribers to larger compoanies won't go, but they're full of the joy of dancing.

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This is my daughter's 11th and final year dancing in her ballet school's Nutcracker, so for me it's a nostalgia-ridden time. We always see the student production and usually one professional Nut - sometimes NYCB, sometimes Boston. In the past, we always saw Hartford Ballet's Nut; this year Dance CT, HB's down-sized replacement, has asked Kirk Petersen to return to stage his American Nutcracker for them. They've invited back the principal dancers from that Nut. We're looking forward to seeing it once again.

I love the Nutcracker, not for its dancing as much as for how children respond to it. I enjoy watching the reactions of the little kids in the audience every bit as much as I enjoy the performance. After countless years of Nut viewing, we can forget just how magical an experience it is for little ones. Years ago, I taught pre-school. During the holiday season I always played Tchaikovsky's music for the ballet at lunchtime. Each day the same little girl would come sit on my lap during the music for the Battle Scene. She'd say hopefully, "The mouse king isn't real, right? It's all pretend?" And then, towards the end of that score, she'd sigh deeply in relief, "Good, the Nutcracker soldier got him."

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I live in Milan so I'm gonig to see La Scala Ballet. They'll do tha Nureyev version with, in the role of Drosselmeyer/prince, Roberto Bolle and Massimo Murru. Here there isn't the tradition to do Nutcracker every year so I'm going to take the opportunity to see them both!!!

Fabiana

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Hello, fabiana! Thank you for posting that. We don't hear enough about Italy and Italian ballet. I hope you'll write after you've seen the performances and tell us what you thought, and some comments on the dancers. You won't find a forum for any Italian company in the International Ballet Companies forums not because we're not interested, but because we don't have any Italians!!!

It's interesting that more and more European companies are starting to do Nutcracker at Christmas. You're right -- it hasn't been a tradition there.

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Although there was much about Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake that I liked, the thought of his Nutcracker makes me cringe.

I hadn't been to a performance of NYCB's Nutcracker in 3 or 4 years, but this year I returned, courtesy of a house seat from SAB. It was in the center of the 5th row of the orchestra. From that distance much of the stage magic was lost for me, but not for the many children seated in the rows in front of me. Vagansmom is absolutely correct about watching them. They were delighted by what was going on, and I was entranced looking at them.

I did look at the stage too. The performance I saw was at 6 p.m. on December 3rd, and I loved everything about it. Wendy Whelan was Sugarplum; Philip Neal, her cavalier; and Jennie Somogyi, Dewdrop. Andre Kramarevsky seemed to have toned down the eccentricities of his Drosselmeyer since the last time I'd seen it.

At any rate, I think I stayed away too long from (to give it its full, formal title) George Balanchine's The Nutcracker.

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Farell Fan, I was just wondering, do you like Kramerevskys toned down Drosselmeyer better, or did you like it better before?

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I'm glad you asked that question, SABgurlie, because it made me think about it. I've decided I liked it better before, when Kramerevsky was more over-the-top.

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And I preferred Shaun O'Brien when his Drosselmeyer was a weirder sort of old duck. That was before Balanchine told him to make his character "more like Robespierre". That's a scary enough character right there, but how do you do that with the mime there in place? It would appear that in his quest to make all Old Coots into Ancient Knights, he had ignored his earlier statement that it was very difficult to express your mother-in-law through classical mime!;)

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Here in Chicago, the Joffrey opened it's Nutcracker last night.

This is a splendid production, very Victorian. What I appreciate so much is that it is staged at the Auditorium Theatre, which was built in just about the same year that Tchaikovsky wrote the Nutcracker music. It's a grand venue that suits this production to a T.

We were sitting quite close to the stage (third row, a little to the right), so it was actually difficult to appreciate the staging, particularly in the party scene and battle scene, which are quite crowded. Besides, my eyes were riveted on one particular party child so I missed quite a lot of what went on. I am happy to report that that child danced exquisitely...:) ;)

I always enjoy the snow scene. The Joffrey has it framed in two rows of "tree angels". These are bouréeing children in skirts that look like snow-covered trees, carrying electric torches. It is a stunning effect. The entrance of the snowflakes is also very effective; they kind of tumble around randomly, and look exactly like the beginning of a snowstorm in the wind.

I'm also a sucker for the part where the Cavalier mimes the first act's action for Clara. I know a lot of people think it's silly, but if well done it seems both humorous and triumphant to me. Willy Shives was the Cavalier last night, and he performed it admirably.

The real highlight of the evening -- aside from that party child, of course ;) -- was the interplay between the Cavalier (Shives) and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Maia Wilkins). The chemistry between them was palpable. They so clearly enjoyed dancing together. It leant a particular energy to their pas-de-deux, which stirred me in a way that the rest of the production hadn't (perhaps I was too close, too jaded, or too tense). I don't always enjoy the Sugar Plum/Flowers scene, which sometimes can make Nutcracker into one of Manhattnik's ballets that are "more too-long than others". Last night, I didn't want it to end.

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Thanks for the review, Treefrog. I'm taking my 4-year-old niece to the Joffrey's Nutcracker in Chicago later this month. After four nephews in a row (one of whom was actually in a figure skating Nutcracker as a little boy), I'm delighted to have one of those little-girls-in-velvet that make Nutcracker audiences so much fun. I enjoyed seeing the Joffrey's Nutcracker years ago when they performed at the Kennedy Center, so it'll be a treat to catch up with it again.

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I've seen Boston Ballet's Nutcracker twice and Jose Mateo's Ballet Theatre twice--I'll see them both many more times this season!.

Boston Ballet

I'm a bit self-conscious about reviewing it because I saw it press night (12/4)--and professionals reviewed that!

I thought it was the best danced Boston Ballet Nutcracker I've seen in years--the company looked well-rehearsed and the dancing was fresh and clean and energetic. Because I have seen this Nutcracker consistently for many years (and many times a season) it makes clear what has been suspected--Mikko Nissinen has really revived this company! My hope is that the crowds that come for Nutcracker will be inspired to return for La Fille mal Gardee and beyond.

One thing I don't like though is the new Nutcracker advertising identity--too garish!

JMBT

I hadn't seen this Nutcracker since it moved to the Sanctuary Theatre--it is amazing how they transform the church into a theatre--and it is very successful. The audience size is 250 so it is a very intimate experience. The sightlines are great and you can really see the dancers' faces and feet--which is certainly a different perspective. I particularly like Jose Mateo's Waltz of the Flowers (my favorite part in BB is Snow). Sometimes, though, I think the stage is too crowded with dancers.

I hope I have the energy and opportunity to see some of the other Nutcrackers around town--particularly the "Urban Nutcracker"

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Scoop, I wanted to send you this info by private message, but you haven't gotten it activated yet. Be sure to stop by the manager's office (just to the right after you enter the lobby) and get that niece of yours a booster cushion. The kids tend to enjoy the spectacle so much more when they can see it!

For what performance do you have tickets? If you care, I can try to find out who is dancing. Send me a PM, after you get it activated.

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Mateo's Waltz of the Flowers involves three groups plus Dew Drop: a duet, a trio and a quartet. The different groups are costumed differently.

Each group of flowers has a different movement quality. That is what intruiges me the most when I watch it. The yellow flowers ("daffodiles" in my mind) are "darting". The other two? I forget Mateo's words for them. In my mind, the purple flowers are "gracious and flowing", and the other ones are somewhere inbetween. I'm never quite sure how to describe it to myself.

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I didn't know what to expect since I was told that the Moskow Ballet company wasn't so great. And, Panama City (Florida) is a small town and not a cultural haven. So I didn't expect much... but I went anyway.

Holy Smokes! Look at the crowd! 2500 people came to the "Marina Civic Center" in a town with a population of 36,000. Many could not get tickets since they had sold out. Well, so what, its the Nutcracker, a traditional favorite. So I still wasn't convinced that I was going see anything great.

I had seen a TV comercial about this production and the costumes were rather garish and it didn't look so good... but listen, this was some OLD footage. As it turned out, all the costumes had JUST been redone for this tour and they returned to a more traditional color and style. Wonderful costumes, very lovely now. A big improvement.

This is not a rinky dink touring outfit. I don't know how they were in the past, but this is now a spectacular show. Everything seemed right to me... and everything seemed to be full scale (not cut down for tour). There were close to 50 talented Russians and about 40 local childred on stage. I don't know how they did it, but the local kids were very well integrated into the dance choreography. Very excellent advance work on someones part.

The backdrops were changed to reflect a message (or desire) for world peace. I don't like political messages, but believe it or not, it was so well done that I hope that they keep the modification for others to see. It included a huge white butterfly with wings that extended far beyond the reach of her arms and the wings would "flit" upward with each clash of the symbol... sounds silly I know, but she was being held up very high and with the lighting it was as if she was floating. It was quite impressive and beautiful.

Some of the Russian dancers had the enthusiam and skill to be down right electrifying. I really had the feeling that I was sitting in a great theater in Russia and not a civic center in Panama City.

The Moscow Ballet company may have been marginal in the past, but what I saw far exceeded anything that I could have imagined.

They did a wonderful job and to think that they are a "tour group", well, its down right amazing.

If you saw their nutcracker in the past and didn't care for it, give it another chance. I don't think you will be dissapointed.

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Well, a political message might not be unpalatable, ronny. After all, in the original, there was an economic message: The business of Russia is business! It was a celebration of consumer goods becoming more available to Russians, and celebrated the nation's trading status with other nations. Even the Cavalier, Prince Koklush(whooping cough), might very easily be American - Smith Brothers cough drops were being sold in Petersburg then!

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That's very interesting, Mel. Do you think that that capitalistic message has anything to do with the Nutcracker's widespread popularity in the USA?

BTW, the Israel Ballet does not have a production of the Nutcracker and usually dances Cinderella at Hanuka time.

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In the French, however, Coqueluche also means "darling" or "favorite." Knowing this helped me make sense of the Vainonen Nutcracker--the Sugar Plum Fairy has several cavaliers, but dances mostly with her favorite. Also, for anyone who finds the Nutcracker music getting on his/her nerves should consider this: for a while in Russia, it was performed year-round!

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The Coqueluche in question happens to come from a Franco-Russian idiom meaning "he gets around like whooping cough", i.e. he's very popular, everybody has him at their house.;) In the case of the original cavalier, Pavel Gerdt, this worked pretty well, as he was a bit of a social lion in 1890s Petersburg. (And besides, he had that Smith Brothers beard!;) )

And yes, I do believe that the emphasis on consumer goods works to the ballet's favor in the US, whether the means to attaining them be monarchist, republican, or socialist, or some of each!:)

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I have recently moved to the West coast from the East. I am used to seeing the Balanchine Nutcracker every year. This year I have seen a few performances of San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker and Sacramento Ballet's Nutcracker. Between the 3 Nutcrackers I must say that I enjoy Sacramento's version the most. It is definitely the most magical. It is Ron Cunningham's choreography, he is the director of Sacramento Ballet and was Drosslemeyer in the production that I saw last week. I took a friend along, another ballet mom who is from Australia. She also has seen many versions of the Nutcracker and agreed that she liked Sacramentos the best.

I also have enjoyed the San Francisco Nutcracker except for the party scene. The party scene is very dull. It took until halfway through the party scene until I could figure out which girl was Clara. I thoroughly enjoy their snow scene, though. I love the idea of having a Snow King and Queen, something that is missing in the Balanchine version. Friday night Kristin Long was Snow Queen and Saturday it was Nicole Starbuck. They were both absolutely beautiful. Saturday matinee had Julie Diana and Zack Hench as Sugar Plum and Cavalier. They are a magnificent pair and were about the best Sugar Plum and Cavalier that I have ever seen.

So while I am missing parts of the Balanchine version I have found other parts that I am enjoying more.

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I've seen the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker for the second year. The sets and costumes are lavish and there are some good performances (frankly, the cast I saw last year was a lot better) but the choreography and libretto could use some serious tweaking. Pretty much it turns into a revue with a group of gorgeously costumed dancers parading around the stage striking the same poses interminably. In the waltz of the snowflakes the dancers hardly even moved. The dancer I saw as "Masha" was quite good... beautiful line and strong turns... but seemed limited by the small stage and repetitiveness of the choreopgraphy. Maybe this has something to do with their touring... if the choreography is too complex they might have trouble adapting it to so many different stages. Still, it's a nice enough production with well-trained dancers, a few of whom were well beyond the merely competent level. As far as the "message of peace, love, and harmony" it wasn't that much different from last year's production (other than the inclusion of the Dove... looking more as if she were a butterfly and obviously tacked on since she basically had no role in the story or dancing to do... and some distracting animal "puppets" in the character dances). I think it had more to do with marketing the ballet to a country on the verge of war than with any political statement. Incidentally, does anyone know if Moscow Ballet is a more or less phantom company only organized to perform The Nutcracker?

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Last night we attended Dances Patrelle's The Yorkville Nutcracker http://www.dancespatrelle.org/ - the cast consisted of members of Dances Patrelle's troupe - dancers who have been, and may still be, performing professionally elsewhere; students from The Ailey School, Ballet Academy East, School of American Ballet and Studio Maestro; and for last night's performance the two guest artists were Jennifer Ringer and James Fayette.

As I posted elsewhere this Nutcracker takes place in the Mayor of NY's home - Gracie Mansion... the guests are diplomats from all over the world so they're very colorful as are their children. A Drosselmyer type - here he is "Uncle Noah Wheaton" - is in attendance and was played really well by Donald Paradise... There's a dancing "bear" who turns out to be Teddy Roosevelt - played by Frances Patrelle himself with the perfect nonstop toothy grin complete with wire rimmed glasses! The naughty boys have more of a Rough Rider theme to their shannanigans...(and this theme is carried throughout the battle scene later). The sets were really well done - different scrims representing the outside of Gracie Mansion, the living room, a beautiful scene in Central Park with a frozen lake and snow covered bridge, trees etc. - where the Snow King and Queen appear ...a corps of really well rehearsed skaters whose costumes were incredibly beautiful - long, dark blue skating skirts, short, closely fitted jackets, hats, and muffs - they really seemed historically accurate! Later, there's a scene with the Botanical Gardens' greenhouse in the background as well.

The dancing was very good, the students looked well rehearsed to me and were really quite good. I can say all this pretty freely since my own was in the audience with me! Mr. Patrelle did a great job with the choreography, the costumes ran the gamut from the enchanting to the funny and colorful. The costumes for the mice and the gingerbread children were really great and added a lot of humor to the scenes...along with the dancers themselves who caught the humor well and played their parts with ease and enjoyment.

What can I say - we were really more than pleasantly surprised having never attended this Nutcracker before. I'm not going to try to give you a play by play on the specific dancers and scenes - there were too many and I'm not capable of doing them justice! Let me just say that among the different students there were several real standouts and that on the whole they were all quite good ... the ones that had lead roles really showed their stuff! And having the professionals in various roles such as Francois Perron as the Snow King, and Sabra Perry as the Arabian dancer in Coffee, the dancers who played the Mayor, his wife and their friends added a finesse to the already fine dancing of the students involved. It was a real treat to see them perform in such an intimate theater.

But I do have to mention the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier - Jennifer Ringer and James Fayette, specifically. They are the perfect pair. Ms. Ringer is the epitome of femininity and beauty - what style, poise and perfection...She is to me a true ballerina and her acting skills were there too. Her loveliness was only underscored by Mr. Fayette's strength and masculinity as her Cavalier... Their connection was obvious and really made their performance memorable.

P.S. I just found out that this version was reviewed right here on Ballet Alert in 1998 if you want to read it click on this: http://www.balletalert.com/reviews/r98/Patrelle.htm

December 15th, 2002 11:22 AM

Farrell Fan

Bronze Circle

Registered: Dec 2001

Location: New York, NY

Posts: 343 Yorkville Nutcracker  

Thanks for the report, BW. I won't be able to get to it today, but it sounds charming. I hope they do it again next year, particularly since I live in Yorkville.  

(P.S. I moved a discussion from Discovering Ballet to this existing thread - sorry for the confusion!)

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It has been several years since I have seen a Nutcracker. I am referring to the Nutcrackers that are typically put on by regional professional companies and their compliment of student pre-professionals and assorted young dance students during the year to promote the season

I attended Manassas Dance Company’s Nutcracker season for each of its three performances this weekend starting on December 14th. On Friday evening my party and I were in festive spirits looking forward to a Christmas treat of ballet and music by the Prince William Symphony Orchestra. The logic being that whatever took place on stage, the beautiful crescendos of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker would provide us with much pleasure. I have never counted up all the Nutcrackers Ballets I have seen but suffice it to say that I have seen many. This one appeared to me to be a fairly traditional production, be it embellished with wit and surprise.

I think Nutcracker productions here in the United States may represent some of our best “American” qualities. It also gives us a chance to enjoy live theater magic that is accessible. A large-scale production can bring the community together in a cooperative way to include school, civic and community leaders. best of all, it provides a chance for our kids to tell a story to other children. Of course they have help from the grown-ups.

I couldn't resist the tiny little playing cards doing ring- a -ring a rosy with a flamboyantly caped and eye-patched Drosselmeyer. I have seen productions where Drosselmeyer was the acne-faced teen that achieved the role because the dancer was tall enough to fit the cape. I appreciate most performances but it’s an absolute joy to see this caped master of movement and characterization. My goodness is this Manassas, Virginia?

On Sunday I had some conflicting duties so I did not arrive to turn in my ticket until way into the first act. The box office manger smiled when I flipped out my ticket and I felt a sense confidence because I was not going to be turned away! I was later told that this performance was sold out. As quietly as I could I followed the usher’s direction to an available seat. I needn’t have worried about being too quiet as the house was buzzing with soft little voices, some were more enthusiastic and all about the action taking place on stage. The Snow King and Queen were well into their pas de deux. I was captivated by the awe in the little faces and voices around me. Some were sitting on their Mom and Dad’s lap and in some cases there was little narrations occurring and were met with gasps of delight. When the snowflakes came out I heard more murmurs of pleasure. One Mom said “Oh look, there’s a snowflake” as lead Snow made her entrance. The little ones quieted as they became enchanted with the snow scene.

Act II evoked more reactions children saw a friend, a sibling, or perhaps a teacher makes an entrance on the stage. One child was so pleased to see someone she squirmed excitedly and pointed to court dancers wearing a tiara and announced, “She must be the Queen, just look at her crown”. It didn’t seem to matter to her that all of the court dancers were similarly bejeweled.

The Nutcracker Prince’s Mime told the tale with crisp and succinct gestures, which conveyed both the meaning and excitement to the viewer. He appeared to be weightless as he demonstrated the conflict between mice and soldiers.

Arabian was sensuous and provocative, while still maintaining the appropriate movement for a mixed-age audience. The couple hit just the right tone with a sense of playfulness. Their execution and accomplishment of some unpredictable choreography with dramatic lifts was done without resorting to just a series of tricks.

In my view, the principal guest artist was the quintessential Cavalier and the audience knew they were seeing good stuff. It seems often that Ballet is misunderstood. People feel that they can’t attend a ballet because they don’t “know” enough. However, when ballet is good everyone recognizes it.

The Cavalier’s partnership with his Sugar Plum was romantic and gallant. Sugar Plum was light, aristocratic but benign and crystalline sweet. The thrill of the Cavalier’s variation convinced me this first rate theater experience. My sister-in-law was brought to tears. My holiday spirit has been captured and life is good.

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