What Nutcrackers are you seeing?

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Mary Lynn,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt description. Hooray for the recapturing of your holiday spirit!

And I loved your reflection:

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.

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I went to see the Royal Ballet's first night of Nutcracker last night. It's actually the first time I've seen it at the Royal Ballet, having had to go home for Christmas year after year. I thought the whole party in Act I seemed slow and devoid of any action, plus there were a few mishaps on stage. I think I find it a little disappointing because the music is so gorgeous but it's not used well. Still the mouse battle was good fun and I love seeing the children dance. My favourite part though has to be the pdd between Clara and Hans Peter - a blue silky curtain drops down as a backdrop and the effect is dreamy. Iohna Loots was a lovely Clara though I didn't think she soars in this. Jonathan Howells I thought was quite romantic! The snowflakes, their diagonal patterns are dazzling, as are the costumes and set of Act II. Manianela Nunez almost stole the show with her warm but crisply danced Rose Fairy. Monica Mason came out before the show to explain that Darcey Bussell had the flu and Jonathan Cope had injured his back - a disappointment to many I'm sure but I don't think they could possibly have danced the Sugarplum Fairy and Prince any better than Miyako Yoshida and Ivan Putrov. They seem perfectly proportioned to each other and have the same pure style of dancing. Putrov really seems to have grown as a partner this last year - he was very attentive to Yoshida. And his short solo was beautiful - he makes it look so easy! Yoshida was fantastic. A fun afternoon!

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i was going to write a long diatribe about Nutz, but decided against it. i just finished my eighth performance and am dog tired.

Just one opinion about Nutz, the music is perhaps the best ballet. Go see it live with a real live orchestra, and you will truly appreciate the beauty of the Tch. score.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


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It was wonderful to see this Nutcracker on stage in Hartford, CT once again. These performances were a partnership involving ABT Studio Company and some ABT soloists, former principal dancers of the defunct Hartford Ballet, and dance students from The School of Dance CT (it replaced Hartford Ballet), dance students from The Hartt School of the Univ. of Hartford and also male students from Nutmeg Ballet. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra supplied the music.

In Peterson's Nutcracker, the characters are based on famous people who lived in the USA during the mid-1800's. Instead of Clara, Lotta Crabtree, a renowned actress from the 19th century, is featured. Lotta's stepfather is Junius Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth, (who is conspicuously absent from this production) and his brother (and Lotta's stepbrother) Edwin - this version's Fritz. To round out the guests, Mark Twain makes an appearance as does Joshua C. "Emperor" Norton, a colorful character in San Francisco in the 1800's but an old man here. Instead of Drosselmeyer, we see Herrmann the Great, one of the finest magicians of the 1900's in America.

For the most part, Prologue was the usual kind, with Edwin and a group of bored boys making trouble while the parents scolded them and the girls played sweetly. The girl playing Lotta was lovely and endearing. I believe she's a student with the School of Dance CT. The young man dancing Edwin (who really had the plum role of the First Act), a fine dancer in the making, trains with Nutmeg Ballet.

Herrmann the Great brings out a ladybug doll who's activated by a magical sprite followed by a dancing windup grasshopper soldier doll. (Yes, really). Sarah Lane's Ladybug was sparkling and Danny Tidwell's splits as the grasshopper were magnificent, both in height and flexibility.

One could tell that a man choreographed this Prologue: he really got the boys' parts exactly right. They plotted in the background, with Edwin as ringleader; much of the time I just wished some adult would send these kids out to play - of COURSE they'd get in trouble - they were bored! But I digress...

I was a little disappointed with the Battle Scene. All that crashing music was wasted as there was little action. The rats were adorable, dressed as miners in overalls; the soldiers appeared to be around 11 years old. But they didn't do much nor did the Nutcracker Soldier or the Boss Rat. It was, all in all, a very polite Battle. I would've liked much more action.

The Snow Faerie Queen and King danced a pas de deux after which the Snow Faeries danced. Cheryl Madeux danced the Snow Faerie Queen and Paul Thrussell was the King. Madeux's famous musicality and appealing personality were once again a delight (I miss her!). She has the ability to make you forget about everyone else on stage every time. This Snow Scene had some very nice formations, esp. during its 2nd half. One of the soloists-it was either Laura Hidalgo or Kelly Potter- had especially crisp turns.

The 2nd Act begins with a dance by little Sugar Plum Faerielettes and little Mushrooms under the shade of an ancient plum tree. The Sugar Plum Faerie Queen herself, danced by Michele Wiles pops out of the tree and Lotta soon enters with the Cavalier in a carriage drawn by a large bear! Soon Lotta sits on a branch of the tree and Saffron Faeries, danced by Kelley Potter and Alexandre Hammoudi, appear. They dance to the Spanish music; Potter's dancing was especially crisp; her "hang time" in an assisted split was impressive.

Tim Melady and Laura Hidalgo danced to the Arabian music. Here Melady's character is a shaman (wearing next to nothing) and according to program notes, she is a Golden Eagle who shed her wings to dance with him. As they dance, a giant eagle slowly flaps its wings in the background. Aside from the Sugar Plum/Cavalier, this pair garnered the most applause.

Instead of Chinese, we are treated to 3 dancing flames - two women and a man, who (courtesy of program notes again) are "sparks flying from the Ring of Fire, the creative spirit of the Earth". They "evoke the coming of the Chinese railroad workers". Danny Tidwell's dancing here stood out.

Marzipan is replaced by Lacewings; Trepak is, instead, two sea otters (although I thought they were Russian men-they wore those furry caps). The hit for the kiddies came next: a giant beehive with an equally giant bumblebee atop it. Wee little sunflowers are visited by equally wee butterflies. The hive opens and out comes a swarm of adorable little bumblebees. Eventually a large spider appears from up in the sky and descends, trying to entrap a bumblebee. The scene concludes with a visit by the bear. Very, very cute.

Plum Blossom Faeries dance the traditional Waltz of the Flowers. Standouts here are the two men partnering the female soloists. Bo Busby (I'd heard so much about him) and Daniel Keene do the honors. Both are standouts. I really liked this waltz; it was graceful and light; the corps did a fine job with some pleasing formations, and the two couples were lovely.

Sugar Plum Faerie Queen (Michele Wiles) and her Cavalier (Carlos Molina) finally enter and dance their pas de deux. I'd never seen Wiles in a solo role before. She has a very clean technique - and what gorgeous feet! I wasn't fond of the choreography though; I think of this role as designed to show off brilliance. Instead, while Wiles danced beautifully, it lacked luster. Part of it, I think, was that she herself didn't seem to command our attention, but I believe part of that lack was also the fault of the choreography. It was nice, it was in fact very nice but I wanted more than nice. Molina also danced very well but here too, I wished for something more thrilling.

The ballet concluded, as it always does, with a final coda but at the end Lotta floats away high in the air attached to a giant sequoia leaf.

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After so many failed attempts to bring my child to catch the wonder of dance, I took my 4-year-old to see Kirk Peterson's Nutcracker Saturday Evening. I'd seen the production when it premiered, and so I knew the costumes & sets would be spectacular. I wasn't so sure the dancing would be what with there being no local company and students from Hartt school & Dance Connecticut providing the corps, but figured with soloists from ABT's Studio Company it would be better than any other local offering. Wow! Am I ever glad I did! Again, it was spectacular. ABT's Studio Company dancers were far better than I anticipated. (I remember the 1970s with the Joffrey II and what was ABT's old second company named... ballet rep? no... what was it?) Daniel Keene & Bo Busby were truly wonderful with those great soaring leaps in the waltz of the flowers. Watching Michele Wiles turn was sublime , even if she did seem to lose energy a bit in her sugarplum variation. Danny Tidwell had the crowd roaring with his seemingly effortless jumps in Ring of Fire (formerly Chinese/Tea)... and the Shaman/Spirit dance (formerly Arabian/Coffee) was so much better this time than in the first production. I don't know that the choreography changed, but certainly the dancing improved. There are so many wonderful touches in the choreography of the first Act, I found myself laughing regularly. Lotta Crabtree (formerly Clara/Marie) was so well danced by Nicole Jackson; she's quite the actress. I loved her self congratulatory smile in the pantomime scene as she mimed how she had distracted the Boss Rat.

I found myself wondering if the board of Hartford Ballet were there and if there were kicking themselves for having ever let go of Mr. Peterson. I wondered if seeing such a beautiful production made them long to once again support a dance company in town. But then, selfishly, I began wondering if this weren't better....that Hartford probably could never afford to maintain a company with dancers this good. At least this way, people get to see ballet at the level it should be performed at, which would inspire greater interest in dance.

Generally, the only thing this production lacks is the traditional setting, and a decent Christmas tree. I don't remember now what reason was given for it not being one of those 3-D trees, but considering the rest of the set & costumes, it's a very small flaw.

I spent the rest of the weekend shooting another non-traditional Nutcracker, this one for a school company out of Arts-In-Motion in former mill town Willimantic, CT. Here the local city history is referred to in the staging. The family is that of the owners of the thread mill that dominated the town. The battle scene is with frogs instead of rats refering back to an incident that happened shortly after the French & Indian War (a veteran colonel from that war had locals convinced that the indians were about to massacre based on the eerie "war cries" they were hearing... it turned out to be hundreds and hundreds of frogs that had left their pond & wandered out onto the lawns). The 2nd act had winged spools of thread (mother ginger), mill workers (tea?), russian stockyard boys (russian/peppermint), peurto rican immigrant girls (spanish) and valentines (the current town logo is "Romantic Willimantic"). A charming production put together by inspired volunteers, particularly considering the humble demographics the company has to draw upon.... a former mill town with no new industry to drive it, in the midst of a rural setting. It's current moniker, no longer "Thread City" but according to the Hartford Courant "Heroin City". You may be hearing about it on NPR shortly, I understand they're doing a segment on the drug problems of small towns soon.

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Hi vagans Mom, you must have posted while I composing! Regarding the choreography for the Sugarplum... I didn't mind it, although I felt she underplayed it.. it was a bit blurred with lack of accent in places, but I blamed that on the dancer not the choreography. There were, however, several times in other spots where I felt the dancers looked a bit rushed. I found myself wondering if it was a height thing. Shorter dancers seem to prefer choreographing things that they themselves do well (or so it often seemed in class with various short teachers), tending more toward fast footwork than slow line-demanding adagio. Kirk Peterson isn't terribly tall. Did you find this as well? And while I liked Hidalgo's Arabian, I particularly didn't like her appearence in the first act... she looked like she was trying to do the hootchy cootchy or shake something off of herself... I don't remember the dancer who did it in the premiere looking that way... perhaps the lusciousness in her movement that made her arabian so successful, wasn't right for the sparkling wood sprite. I distinctly got the feeling she didn't "get" the choreography there. Though, I must say, her sudden appearence was wonderfully surprising... there the audience is, all distracted by the dazzling ladybug costume, waiting for her to start dancing, when suddenly, from out of no where, the wood sprite appears.

This production should tour. It's production values are Broadway show quality. It's a shame only those near Hartford have a chance to see it. Yes, I love the traditional Nutcracker, and wouldn't want it replaced, but the rest of the world should see this production once.

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LOL, Amy, I must be following you around. I ALMOST went to the Willimantic production myself - I was very curious about it. But I thought better of it and came home to wash the kitchen floor.

I'm glad you commented on Hidalgo's Sprite in the First Act. I too thought it looked like she was trying to shake something off; I described it to my daughter as spastic movement. I assume she intended a fluttery look but it was far too much.

I didn't like the tree either. Don't know what it was actually made of, but from my mezzanine seat, it looked like a cardboard rendition a child of about 9 might attempt. But I agree that it was a minor flaw. I LOVED the set for the First Act; it really looked like a spacious house, one that I'd like to live in.

After a night's sleep, my lingering impressions are of Danny Tidwell's dancing. He brought a high flying energy to both his roles. I'd love to see more of him.

It was a bittersweet evening in many ways. During intermission and afterwards, I overheard so many people commenting, with a sigh each time, that it was SO nice to have ballet back in Hartford.

Regarding Sugar Plum, I wish that I'd seen Cheryl Madeux dance it. In fact, that's why I chose that particular performance but word has it that her partner had a conflict and Molina and she dance different versions. So that was a bit of a disappointment. I'd love to see the contrast between her style and that of Wiles; they're very different dancers, for sure. I also would've thought that Molina's size is better suited to Madeux; Wiles really was too tall for him.

Interesting comment about short dancers' choreography: My daughter had a similar comment herself after seeing this production. She too thought some of the dancers were too tall for the choreography and wondered at the casting decisions.

I'm hoping that this venture will be deemed so successful that perhaps it'll be repeated more often. I feel starved up here for ballet performances; there's no professional ballet companies within an evening's driving distance. Both NYC and Boston are logistically out of reach for me. Wouldn't it be great if Peterson also put the same group together for a spring series?

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Ballet Arizona is performing Ib Andersen's Nutcracker. This production has spirit and is what I might call unadulterated - uncomplicated as it is by attempts to 'improve on' the rather simple story or make it more 'psychologically meaningful'. In addition it is full of beautiful dancing, both in Snow and Flowers, and in the gorgeous Snow and Sugarplum pas de deux.

Last night there were a couple of wonderful performances in leading roles that made the evening resonate. Natalia Magnicaballi (who people might know from Farrell's company), was Sugarplum, partnered by Michael Cook. Yen-Li Chen-Zhang was both Snow Queen and Dewdrop. Both dancers share these roles with four other balleriinas.

Magnicaballi was an exquisite Sugarplum, exciting to witness. She posesses a pure, singing line through legs and feet, complimented by a lifted and expressive upper body, arms, and head, a dark-haired beauty, and amazing strength. Hers was a gracious fairy who, in stepping delicately on the first notes of her variation, seemed to pluck the strings of the harp with her feet. Her phrasing was beautifully shaped. Her turns in this beautiful, difficult variation were clear and effortless, and for me she captured the quality of the quite well-worn music, embuing it with freshness and life.

In the pas de deux the turns, balances and lifts were technically brilliant but not in an overtly flashy, trick-y sense: they mirrored the grandness and confidence of Tchaikovsky's score. In addition there was something very natural about Magnicaballi's dancing, a quality shared by Cook, a 'homegrown' talent.

Yen-Li Chen-Zhang's dancing is so exceptional and so worthy of notice that I feel I should devote another post to her performances. I guess this will have to be continued...

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Thank you for all of these! More fun to read them than to watch the Nutcracker I saw :)

More please!! This may be the only view we'll get of ballet around the country.

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Just to continue where I left off:

Yen-Li Chen-Zhang danced both the Snow Queen (with Sergei Prokovskii) and Dewdrop in Ib Andersen's Nutcracker Sunday night. She is a gorgeous dancer with radiant technique and artistry and a tremendous versatility; last season she gave unforgettable performances in Swan Lake with Peter Boal, and she continues to surprise in a varied repertoire.

Andersen’s version of Snow pas is a continuous flow of swirling movement, the dancers seemingly caught and borne about the stage by swiftly moving air currents. Chen-Zhang is crystalline, like snow in sunlight. She has particularly beautiful arms, full of music, and tapering, elegant hands. She is small in stature without appearing small, possessed of a huge jump and liquid, perfectly centered turns.

As Dewdrop, she is a joy, darting among the flowers, parting them and rushing forward, sailing in lyrical attitude tours en dehors, and finally returning to centerstage surrounded by flowers. In this role she seems delighted, and conveys that feeling in abundance to the audience. It’s difficult to be restrained about this ballerina, who should be known more widely.

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Just to add to the picture of Nutcrackers, i have been to the Royal Ballet one twice so far (will review properly soon). The Jamie Tapper/Yohei Saski, with Jonathen Howells as Hans-Peter, and also the Tamara Rojo/Inaki Urlezega casting, with (Big surprise, wasn't expecting ti at all) Ivan Putrov as Hans-Peter. I am also going after Chrsitmas to the Roayl again for the Putrov/Yoshida and Cojacaru/Kobborg castings so I'll let you know how they went.

Briefly the production was outstanding with some very good performances for the Russian/Chines and Arabian dances. Also most noteably, Zenaida Yanowsky as the Rose Fairy, who was a delight to watch.

I also went to see the English National Ballet production, but it wasn't for me, the funny bright wigs put me off (I prefer the more tradidional, covered in glitter look!) though the Land of Snow was excellent, and I loved the Jack Frosts.

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Merry Christmas, everybody!

I've seen the Boston Ballet production of the Nutcracker three times this season. The reason is that I'm the parent of a child in the production: my daughter is Polichinelle Boy 1, so I am not a disinterested viewer. I should also mention that I trained as a musician and have no special knowledge of ballet.

As is true of other companies, the Nutcracker is Boston Ballet's economic lifeline. They say it brings in more than half their ticket sales, 145,000+. The production uses more than one hundred children in the show and since there are four casts of children, this means they have to train more than 400 children, which is a major undertaking of the staff, the children and their parents. It's an important part of these kid's lives. Conversations with some other Nutcracker parents gave me and my wife the impression that their children attend the Boston Ballet School principally for the purpose of getting cast in the Nutcracker. This is a Boston's big artistic Christmas holiday event, bigger than all the Messiahs put together.

With this many kids, there is a higher likelihood for mishaps than in a production with a bigger proportion of professionals. My daughter has many stories. Still, it's clear that there are high artistic standards and clear that the dancers are fully engaged in the dancing and acting. Over and over, in small ways, one sees that the dancers are reacting to each other, to the children in the cast, to the opportunities the story provides them for the small improvisations and liberties that keep the production alive and interesting.

I'd seen this production twice before this season, about 10 years ago and again 2 years ago. The new artistic staff of the ballet must have felt some need to put their mark on this production because many small changes were put in place. Almost all the changes I noticed improved the production.

The party scene was tightened and works better for it, I think. There were many nice touches. The dances by mechanical Harlequin and Columbine were sharp and funny - Harlequin takes a minor liberty with Columbine and she slaps his hand. The Russian Dance is done by a trained bear, who does the all the typical Russian dance tricks and also kisses Mrs. Silberhaus's hand before leaving on a leash.

Tightening the first act meant fast tempos and musical cuts, which I generally dislike. On the other hand, I was glad there was only one run through of the party boy's rat-a-tat. I hope some day, that this bit will be dropped. The production also retains some silly sight gags. When the Nutcracker shoots the mouse, a little flag with Bang! comes out of the barrel - some people actually laugh at this. When other mice come to get the shot mouse, they carry out a stretcher with a red cross on it. More laughs. The Boston Globe critic erroneously reported that the production had dropped this stuff, but I think she was looking elsewhere or was expressing a wish.

Another not-so-great thing is the way the parts of the Grandfather and Grandmother are handled. Drosselmeyer gives Grandfather's a hip flask of booze. Grandfather goes in and out of second childhood, annoying Grandmother who pulls hobbyhorses away from him and scolds him. Thankfully, the production dropped the part where Grandfather dances too fast for his age and pulls a muscle (funny!). This is purposeless ridicule of old people. You see the same kind of stuff with the Tutor in Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. I'm sure there are other ways to get a laugh.

The second act has newly choreographed Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dances (Chocolate, Coffee and Tea). The Arabian dance is a pas de deux, with a stage backdrop that was (they say) inspired by the Bakst set for Scherazade. The dancers I saw were fantastic in it, particularly Paul Thrussell, who was in perfect ensemble with the ballerina and whose slow leaps were beautiful. The choreography (by the new artistic director?) had almost no gratutitous technical show in it. The "almost" is necessary to say because the choreographer threw in one tricky move where the ballerina goes into a supported 6 o'clock extension, and is then locked in position by the male dancer and turned, frozen, to horizontal and returned to upright. Very hard to do, I'm sure. The exit from this dance was magical, the ballerina held high from the waist, with her back arched, her arms slowly alternating in front of her, while the male dancer is slowly circling with her till they are in the wings.

Much of the rest of Act II was wonderful (including the Polichinelles). Larissa Ponomarenko was the great Dewdrop; Christopher Budzynski had fine classical style where it was called for in pas de deux (I'd only seen him in athletic stuff).

But the choreography (in my humble opinion) is a little flat in some important places. In the Act I Snowflakes, the music gets more and more exciting and the dancing just doesn't. In the Sugar Plus Fairy pas de deux, which has the grandest music in the ballet, the music builds and builds to a climax and the choreography is an anti-climax. Others may see these dances and have a completely different take on it, but my opinion is not just one night's impression. I keep getting the same let down. Maybe this is where the criticism that 6 different choreographers should not make one ballet comes from.

To me, overall, the Boston Ballet is doing more and more of what is right and works well and is artistically and aesthetically strong. I don't think they could afford to change it all at once even if they wanted to, and I don't think they want to. If they continue to make small changes, get the kitsch out, improve the weaker dances, then performance by performance and year by year, it will keep improving and I'll be happy to keep coming.

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I think all of the dancers in London must be employed in one of the Nutcrackers we have at the moment! I haven't seen the Bourne one, but I have been to English National Ballet and Royal Ballet.

ENB was a mixed bag... the production looks like a cartoon, the costumes are bright - primary colours and fluorescent, with strange wigs like the Jetsons or the Simpsons... Drosselmeyer wears a white cape whcih looks cheap - where are the sparkles?! The party scene was dreadful - it wasn't much of a party at all, nothing really happened and there wasn't any dancing that I can remember. The children were played by the company dancers, but acted like toddlers, they were quite irritating! I can't remember the battle at all (oh dear) but the Land of Snow was good (at last! Some dancing!) and I liked the idea of having Jack Frosts as well as Snowflakes. The choreography was simple but effective, darting and drifting around. The national dances were, hmm... Spanish was three men who had awful costumes, fluorescent pink capes is enough information I think! Arabian was a woman dressed like a mermaid in a bikini top and long skirt. She didn't do any dancing at all. There were about 8 bare chested men walking around her, holding large feathered fans, and covering her with them and she reappeared intermittently... not particularly exciting. Chinese I can't remember really, I think they had a cart or something... Thank goodness for Russian! Or should I say Cornell Callender who saved the show for me - he was superb. Drosselmeyer led him on dressed as a turquoise feathery bear, then removed his head to reveal the dancer wearing fluffy trousers (he must have been boiling!) Cornell was fantastic - the variation was not very Russian, more virtuoso. Cornell has a great jump with really spectacular clarity, and his pirouettes were amazing, his tours en l'air increased in speed as he went around, I couldn't believe it! He brought the house down - he looks like he belongs in Corsaire or Bayadere. I'll be watching out for his name!

So Cornell Callender was the highlight of the ballet, definitely. Also I have to put in a word for Angelina Ballerina, who introduced the performance - she said, "Ballet is the best thing EVER!" and I can't help but agree.;)

The RB production is much nicer! Both performances I have seen so far were exactly how I wanted them to be, they were sparkly, luxurious and had beautiful dancing. Jonathan Howells and Bethany Keating were Hans Peter and Clara in one, they looked good together and Jonathan looks like a good partner, attentive and smiling. Ivan Putrov and Iohna Loots were in the other - I was pleased to see Ivan after being almost disappointed that this year he got the role of the Prince - I had enjoyed his Hans Peter so many times before! Jaimie Tapper and Yohei Sasaki were Sugar Plum and the Prince for the first, and I enjoyed Jaimie's dancing a lot, much better than her Swan Lake. Yohei looked positively golden and has an easy jump and clean technique. Tamara Rojo and Inaki Urlezaga took the roles in the second one I saw. Tamara suited Sugar Plum well - she looked suitably fairytale and fantastical, cool and regal. William Tuckett was hilarious as Dr Stahlbaum in the party scene - he puts in so many little touches, it is well worth sitting close enough to see his face! I enjoyed all the national dances. The Rose Fairy and her escorts were delightful, Zenaida Yanowsky was joyful and energetic and as sparkling as ever.

I think a lot of people will have seen this production on video/TV now - I noticed a post that it was on in the US this holiday. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! I am going a few times more yet... there are some exciting castings not to be missed - I can't work out why we don't get advance casting information about Clara and Hans Peter instead of Sugar Plum and the Prince - in this production, Clara and HP get MUCH more dancing!

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Two more RB Nutcrackers yesterday... not as tight as previous ones I didn't think, but still very enjoyable.

Ivan Putrov showed off his beautiful dancing very well, the white costume suited him and it was especially nice to see his feet for once - in black boots you can never fully appreciate them! Miyako Yoshida was his partner, and was the sweetest Sugar Plum you could wish for. Alina Cojocaru didn't let Johan Kobborg get much of a look in, it was definitely her show. After being disappointed that they aren't dancing Sleeping Beauty together later this season, I think I am quite glad as it will give him a chance to shine in his own right - he is being overshadowed! He does a marvellous job of showing her off but I think there is room for him to show himself off a bit too.

Brian Maloney was the handsomest Hans Peter I have seen.;) His acting is lovely, he was full of wonder and his timing in the mime was great! He has such a recognisable technique that even with his Nutcracker head on in the Battle, I could tell it was him - very stylish and neat. He was Clara's dancing partner in the other performance, and he was so attentive to her, and so hopeful, it was sad when the party was over and he had to leave her! Ricardo Cervera was a good Hans Peter too, although he looked quite odd with golden hair - at least Brian is blond anyway! Ricardo is very bouncy, and his first pdd (in front of the shimmering curtain) was really quite moving. Of the two Claras I much preferred Natasha Oughtred to Gemma Bond. Natasha was very involved in the story and is a lovely dancer and actress.

We have been very lucky with Rose Fairies, Marianela Nunez and Zenaida Yanowsky were both as smiling and as beautiful as each other, I can't decide who I liked best! Christina Arestis was amazing in Arabian - she uses her eyes so well, she somehow manages to make eye contact with the entire auditorium at once! She was very mysterious. Zenaida danced Arabian too, she has such an astonishing body - she bent over backwards and I thought her head was going to touch the floor! She is tall, but has endless legs as well as endless back, she is just beautiful.:)

That's it for my Nutcrackers this year. I'm very tempted to go again though, it is a gorgeous production.

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Last night we attended NYCB's Nutcracker. Alexandra Ansanelli was truly exquisite. She and Damien Woetzel danced beautifully together and apart. I've always been a fan of both dancers... Seeing Ms. Ansanelli in the part of the Sugarplum Fairy was the highlight of the evening for us. She is incredibly beautiful, physically, and just as beautiful a dancer.

Eva Netanya was scheduled to play Frau Stahlbaum, which she did - but at the last minute, just before the curtain went up, it was announced that she was to take Aesha Ash's place as "Coffee"! Although we'd really been looking forward to seeing Ms. Ash dance in that role, Eva Natanya was a knockout. I know she's no stranger to this role, and that may be why she was thrown into it at the last minute, however she danced it as though it were written for her. I was really glad she had the chance to perform this role, rather than only that of "the mother"!

Pauline Golbin was also extremely well cast as the lead ballerina in "Hot Chocolate"... She really had the right persona going for the role and looked as though she were truly enjoying every minute.

You know, I don't seem to get tired of this one. :)

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Last Saturday I went to the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, the temporary seat of La Scala, to see Nureyev’s “The Nutcracker”. The principals were Maximiliano Guerra and Anita Magyari.

First of all, I must say that I don’t like Nureyev’s version very much. Too much steps, too much costumes, too much of everything...Anyway, costumes were wonderful even if a bit “heavy” (for example, men in the “Waltz of the Flowers” wore a jacket with such a highnecked collar that they seemed to be without neck at all). The scenery was gorgeous.

The corps of ballet was in good shape and I liked it. The Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Waltz of the Flowers were well danced even if I prefer Ivanov’s choreography.

The soloists... well, it was such a pain to see them! Guerra had not the presence and the technique anymore, his feet were tremendous, his hairstyle inadequate (he had long hair gathered up in a ponytail which made him look a corsair rather than a prince). Magyari was insecure, with no use of the upper body and with no control of the arms. I was wondering why the most important company of ballet in Italy employs such dancers who are at the end of their career. I was told that Bolle was fantastic but unfortunately I was unable to see him...


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To Vagansmom and Amy,

I'm glad you enjoyed Kirk's Nutcracker, I certainly had fun dancing it. The audience was a real pleasure to dance for, they were so appreciative. May I ask what you thought of the Russians? I am curious as to why the audience in general didn't seem to like it very much although every show they did get a little bit more receptive.

Please don't hesitate to say if the dancing just wasn't very strong, or not quite strong enough to keep up with the choreography. I just am really interested what the reason was and promise I'd take it constructively.

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Welcome back, Guy! We haven't read you in ages! Where are you dancing?

(And sorry not to acknowledge all of these reviews, which I've read with great interest.)

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Hi Alexandra,

I am now dancing with ABT studio company! It is a dream come true and I am enjoying it very much. The reason I haven't been here for so long is because I always used to spend too much time on it, This site is so good it's addictive. Unfortunately time and computer access are both sometimes equally hard to find in the studio company. Now that I have a vacation though I have allowed myself the pleasure of returning briefly. The site has improved tremendously, btw, its even more awesome now- congratulations!

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I've just come home from my 2nd and probably final Nutcracker. So relieved there were no injuries as the main roles were filled with all my favourite dancers - Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg as the Sugarplum Fairy and Prince, with Natasha Oughtred and Ricardo Cervera as Clara and Hans Peter. I thought Natasha was so lovely - she has such big and expressive eyes and seeing that she's replacing Leanne Benjamin in Gloria in the coming mixed bill I think she's really on her way up. Ricardo Cervera was wonderful, really romantic in the pdd and full of joy in everything else. He has such an easy smile and there's something so relaxed about his dancing it's easy to see why he's a fan favourite. Natasha said in a recent newspaper profile that Juilet was her dream role and I could easily imagine them both in this ballet. I was hoping to see Zenaida Yanowsky or Belinda Hatley as the Rose Fairy but it wasn't to be. Still I guess you can't get any better than Marianela Nunez whom I saw last time. She is absolutely gorgeous in this role and dances with such an easy confidence I can't imagine anyone bettering her. Alina and Johan were wonderful as expected. I was surprised to agree with Lolly that Alina and her brilliant smile outshone Johan (a little unsmiley today) - I usually find it's the other way around! Anyway they were beautiful - very grand and assured. It was like there wasn't a single movement wasted - every step or gesture seemed so perfectly danced, like little gems sprinkled between moments of complete stillness. When Alina lept into Johan's arms and he dips her into a fishdive, it felt like it came out of nowhere, it was such a surprise even though I'm so familiar with this pdd. Alina got cheers for a string of double fouettes across the stage before the pdd had even ended. I'd say they were equally as good as Miyako Yoshida and Ivan Putrov who I saw last time. I was a little unsure about Alistair Marriot as Drosselmeyer - he came across as a little crotchy and unsympathetic. I loved the little boy from the party in Act I who tries to steal the Nutcracker from Clara and flies with a bit of magic from Drosselmeyer - his petulance was quite funny! The dancers from the Chinese dance were very cheeky in the curtain calls, mimicking the Arabian dancers curtain calls exactly with the arms and one straddling another's shoulders. :-) Great fun, great evening.

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Three different Nutcrackers this year which is more than enough. First up was Mathew Bourne's version which as usual, puts an ingenious spin on the story, setting it in a Victorian orphanage run by the cruel Dr. Dross. The happy ending comes when Clara manages to escape through the window with the Nutcracker Prince - another orphan.

Again as usual with Bourne, terrific design, some entertaining twists to the plot and no real choreography at all. Very committed performances though, from all his dancers.

English National Ballet's new production I thought tremendous fun. I saw two performances and enjoyed it still more the second time. Designs are by the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and he has transformed all the adult characters at the party in Act I into his own style. Grandpa wears a kilt with holly sprigged boxers underneath, and despite his walking frame chases avidly after his girlfriend - a Miss V Agra. Fritz and his friend are horrid little boys in combat trousers and t-shirts while Clara is a pretty pre-teen with red hair worn with bangs and a bob, rather like Scarfe's wife the actress Jane Asher.

Choreography is by Christopher Hampson who has just left the company where he was a dancer for some years to work as a freelance choreographer. Mostly I think it works pretty well, although it isn't what you expect from your conventional Nutcracker. His female snowflakes and male Jack Frosts, emerge from a large refrigerator stocked with Hoffman Beer, etc. The quartet of Chinese dancers arrive in a little van marked 'take away', the Arabian dance is a Hommage A Roland Petit and has a sinuous lady in all over tights and a trailing sarong, surrounded by a group of boys with blue ostrich feather fans.

The biggest single weakness comes with the grand pas for sugar plum and the Nutcracker prince. He has rechoreographed this, and it's just not as good as Ivanov. One nice thing about this production though was that all the dancers seemed to be enjoying it.

The kids all around me were having a great time, I suspect bright colours and faintly rude jokes are popular with little people. One little girl in party dress and tiara told me it was 'wonderful'.

Last up was the Royal Ballet version which I have seen every season it's been given since it was premiered. Then it had the benefit of using as much of the Ivanov choreography as could be re-staged. Most of this has now been dropped. Peter Wright has tinkered with it on each occasion it's been staged and in my view it's now just a muddle - for instance you have both angels and a magician driving the action. Surely you can have one or the other but not both.

Part of the problem lies with the design. The party scene is probably the most authentic reconstruction of a bourgeois german household in the 1820's you are ever likely to see, but as a stage picture, it's dull. The snowflake wigs and costumes are a dreary grey and manage to make all the girls look dumpy, and when you combine this with uninspired choreography and lackluster dancing.....well, struggle to keep awake.

Act II is suposedly set in a Piece Montee made from icing. This means an elaborate washed out pastel set with lots of heavy decoration, costumes in the same wishy washy creams and pinks, and everyone in unflattering blond wigs. At least the sugar plum cavalier's costume has been changed slightly, cut up at the front to look like a jacket. With the original design it was all too clear with some more mature gentlemen, that he was dressed as a Christmas Cracker!

I saw Rojo as Sugar Plum, who despite the awful wig and ornate costume managed to give both the pas de deux and her variation form and style, phrasing beautifully and adding just the right amount of ornamentation. She was partnered by Inaki Urlezaga - dancer who has never impressed me, and this wasn't the occasion which changed my mind. I've forgotten the name of the dancer who did Clara, perhaps just as well. Ivan Putrov was the Nutcracker. I suppose the most outstanding thing about his performance was the way he had got round the blond wig rule by spraying his luxuriant dark curls with a great deal of gold hair spray. He was lively when he joined in the Russian dance, but I think he's a dancer who will need very careful schooling and casting if he's to realise his potential.

Altogether a dull, and expensive, evening.

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I too attended the two "alternative" Nutcrackers in London. I was well warned in advance what to expect from ENB's Scarfe version - not only having read the critics' reviews but also because my daughter, who is at the school, had attended the dress rehearsal in London - so wasn't disappointed by the emphasis on costume and theatricality at the expense of the dancing. I did feel that the party costumes were just a bit too over the top, especially the bishop, but there was enough action to keep me interested throughout the first act, and I'm not normally a great fan of Nutcracker. I too liked to Jack Frosts and snowflakes. We had selected our performance because my daughter wanted to see Yosvani Ramos and he was very impressive. I was a little disappointed in Elena Glurdjidze as the Sugar Plum Fairy but perhaps she is still settling in. The highlight of the afternoon was Cornell Callender in the Russian. My daughter dissolved into a silent fit of giggles which was apparently a reaction to how amazing he was - no man, she tells me, should be that flexible and his turns are just out of this world!

I really liked Yat-Sen Chang as Drosselmeyer though I would have liked to see Irek Mukhamedov do it too. I didn't pick up any of the sinister overtones which the critics complained about. The critics had also been unhappy with Clara's satin pyjamas and red wig but my daughter thought they were really cool, so perhaps this is a generation thing.

The Matthew Bourne Nutcracker was interesting but not an entirely enjoyable evening. I felt that there were some really witty moments but it seemed very slow at times. There isn't enough variety in the first act for my taste. I did like some of the second act dances - and I thought the idea of having Clara trying to sneak past the bouncer to get into the wedding along with each of the acts was great. I loved the Liquorice Allsorts (Spanish) and the Gobstoppers. My daughter, who is definitely a ballet-or-nothing person, hated it from beginning to end!


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These have been great fun to read -- more fun to read than to see in some cases, it seems :(

Thanks to all who've rung in so far and a special welcome to Clare -- I think this is your first review, and I hope there will be many more! Thank you for posting it.

It was especially fun to read the comparisons of the different productions -- you all have such stamina! Thanks to Alymer, too, whose reviews are all too rare on this site :) and to Sylvia, whose frequent reviews are always welcome.

AntoP, if it weren't for you, we would think there was no ballet in Italy!

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Boy, I AM upset that I haven't noticed this TALK ON NUTCRACKERS much earlier!!! :mad: Got an excuse for this tardiness - being a Russian living in Kazakhstan - Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate their 'old-style' Christmas on January 7 and their 'old-style' New Years on January 13. So, I am not that late (I wish... :rolleyes: )

Anyway, I would love to give my little contribution on how were NUTCRACKERs in Almaty (Kazakhstan, Central Aisa, former Soviet Union). Unlike in USA and Europe, in the former Soviet Union countries performances of Nutcracker do not usually begin until winter vacation starts at schools - closer to the end of December (that is PAST the traditional Catholic Christmas on December 25). There were eight performances of Nutcracker in the Almaty State Opera and Ballet Theater (by the Almaty State Ballet): one Dec 27 and 29 (i've attended both of those performances) and then six more performances - daily starting January 4 through January 10 (skipping Jan 6). Since in January all the performances were starting early - at 0500pm (usually they start at 06:30pm), I have seen only one performance on January 4, because I couldn't run away from work.

This year there were four dancers in the Almaty State Ballet who have had their premiere performances in those Nutcrackers: Sophia Galpern (Jan 10) and Natalia Zatylnikova (Jan 9) as a grown-up Marie; Alexey Safronov and Dastan Chinybayev as Nutcracker-Prince (AS - Dec 29, Jan 4, 7; DC - Jan 5).

Almaty Opera and Ballet Theater Nutcracker was made, based on Mariinsky's version, choreography of Vasily Vainonen. It is a very traditional and very enjoyable version - to me. What I appreciate a lot about the version they show in Almaty O&B Theater is that it lets us and dancers to enjoy this 'classic-of-classics' piece - for dancers to show again what they are capable of, performing this ballet, and for us - to experience that magic, 'sprinkled' at us by performers without any artificial special effects involved - only their charisma.

I've seen Leila Alpieva and Dmitry Sushkov to perform as grown-up Marie and Nutcracker-Prince on December 27 - both are perfectly great technically AND are very generous with "sprinkling of magic" telling us the magic story.

December 29 performance was a premiere performance for 18 year old Alexey Safronov as a NutCracker Prince. His partner as a grown-up Marie was Kuralay Sarkytbayeva - very romantic, with long 'singing' arms and legs - her beautiful arabesques en-pointe are still flashing in my memory. And moments of "magic sprinkling" became 'real' during the Sugar Plum Fairy part (for some reason, here we don't have Sugar Plum Fairy as a separate character - it has always been done by the same ballerina who would perform Marie). Alexey is a very good partner (always), and I can't wait to see this young dancer with obviously promising and glorious future to 'grow up' and become as 'magic' as his more-experienced partner Kuralay (it is her second season as a grown-up Marie). So far I have deepest admiration for his most dedicated and devoted attitude towards ballet.

Would love to also share my great delight about the Oriental Dance and Chinese Dolls Dance.

Zaure Umbetkulova as a lead dancer in the Oriental Dance, performed by three female dancers, is so glowing, mysterious, almost sensual yet perfectly tasteful, performing her part. There is also something about her style that I would describe like: when she dances, I almost hear her speaking to us in some beautiful unknown language, that we are not capable of understanding yet. (hope this last bit of my description would make sense to at least some ).

And the Chinese Dolls dance in the third part - Aigul Jumagalieva as a girl-doll and Yerjan Doskarayev as a guy-doll. Both dancers are of Kazakh ethnicity, which belongs to Asian race. Which makes the perfect Chinese Dolls!! However, with their technical and acting brilliancy, - even if they were born blue-eyed blondes, say Estonians - you would LOVE them as Chinese Dolls!! They are so adorable, I'd love to take them home with me, put them on my bookshelf and watch them dance FOR ME! There is ALWAYS a HUGE OVATION to those two - after the dance itself AND in the end of the performance - when all the characters go through the stage to say 'farewell' to Marie.

Pas de trois (the Little Shepperds' Dance) - is always such a thrilling experience: it is traditionally performed by those fragile 10-12 year old ones, with their tiny bodies and their thin, sometimes a bit unsure, arms and legs. It always is really touching experience for me - to watch those little ballerinas-to-be to fight their fear of being on stage for the first time, being nervous, being unsure how good they'll do - and being GREAT in the end!! Have always admired a little gentleman. taking care of this two partners in this pas de trois :( The final 'sweet topping' for this dance has almost always been a big ovation and shouts BRA-VO!! BRA-VO!! - out loud with those tiny voices of the pas-de-trois'ians tiny classmates from the Ballet School! I've always admired support between those kids (vs. jealous silens after their classmates perform). (another thing i enjoy - to sit close to those tiny little dancers who wouldn't be dancing that night, and secretly listen to their chat and funny comments about their classmates performing on stage - OFTEN funny, never cruel! Bless their little big hearts!

FINALE - The Waltz of Flowers (The Rose Waltz) - is always triumphantly beautiful and romantic. Ballerinas are so feminine, male dancers are such gentlemen (a beautiful dream, celebration of the pink-tutu'ed contrast to reality - something I deeply appreciate classic ballet for). Corps de ballet gets to show off their best in this part.

As a bottom line, NUTCRACKER to me personally is more about "for the very first time" performances than about Christmas - first time for those little cute kids to do their little mice and rats part in the first part of the ballet, first time for those older kids - to do 'kids at the Christmas Eve' part. And, of course, first time for those girls who are given to perform the little Marie's part. This year they both were glorious (just like every year i've been watching Nutcrackers in Almaty Ballet)!! Graceful, perfectly composed (think - it is their FIRST time to perform on stage such an important part!), REAL ballerinas, doing their parts in a BIG REAL BALLET. My usual emotion, wathing those little 'diamonds' to shine and glow on stage alerady - at such early age - will we lose them to bigger ballet companies in Russia or abroad, or will they choose to stay in Almaty when they grow up? (For some unknown reason, names of those little ballerinas are never provided in the programs with dancers' names, so for my big regret, I can't share that bit of information with you. )

Oh, and my very first ballet performance that I've attended and fell hopelessly in love with ballet afterwards, WAS A NUTCRACKER in late December 1999. The 13 year old ballerina who did little Marie's part then, had INCREDIBLY 'light' legs - effortlessly bringing her leg almost to her ear a la-second, while standing en pointe AND holding it FOR EVER - it would've seemed like a truly unreal (?sur-real?) aplomb for any adult ballerina! (by the way, I don't see her anymore in any Ballet School or Theater performances - where is she now? In Russia, Riga or somewhere else? If you happen to see a VERY light-legged ballerina whose first name is ASEL', that must be her!).

Late (Orthodoxal) Season Greetings to All! :)


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