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More thoughts on the "Nuts"


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#16 BW

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Posted 18 December 2002 - 08:33 PM

Hmm, Leigh, I'd never really thought about the dichotomy quite the way you've expressed it. I think you're right.

Were we at the same production?:eek: I think the Snow Queen I saw may have broken the spell the that night...perhaps that's why I didn't find her very compelling?

I do think you've hit on something...

"A woman in a tutu is no longer just a woman. She doesn't interact with humans; they don't touch her. Of course there are exceptions - what I'm talking about is just the sense I want a production to have that someone dancing ballet has gone beyond being ordinary.We dance that way because it is an ideal. They don't do ordinary things in an ordinary way."



#17 carbro

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Posted 29 December 2002 - 11:29 PM

Even in Balanchine's oh-so-innocent evocation of childhood, we can see how Marie feels something new and special for Drosselmeyer's nephew in Act I. In Act II, as she dreams, he has taken her to the Land of the Sweets, filled with exotic (if childlike) pleasures. It's all very indirect, no heavy Freudian hand at work here. Still, the subtext of the girl contemplating her future womanhood can be drawn.

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 03:53 AM

And besides, in the Balanchine version, they don't stay in a neverending dream, ruling over the Kingdom of Sweets forever, as in the original book. They fly off in a reindeer-drawn sleigh, presumably back to the real world.

And if the dream creatures do touch the real world children, a lot must depend on how that touch is done. If it is to the top of the head, a priestly sort of benediction, that seems all right to me, and a pat on the cheek, a distinctly Romanov gesture of favor, that's all right, too, but they shouldn't get too chummy! Oddly, in the Balanchine production, Hayden used to begin the act and dance her variation very much as the ruling regent of the land, but when the Nutcracker Prince returned, she essentially became his vassal, and you could see it in her acting.

#19 rg

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 06:35 AM

i think it might prove useful to consider that the intention of the original libretto is to present the journey to the land of snow and the land of sweet as magic, not a dream.
marie is 'really' taken there.
Tchaikovsky scholar wiley published an essay in DANCE RESEARCH, the british publication, specifically stressing that the action of the ballet beyond the parlor scenes is NOT a dream.
and Balanchine has said, and some have observed, that marie marries the little prince in the kingdom of the sweets. the diverts. may therefore been scene almost as a pro-forma wedding divertissement. it was pointed out before i began to think about this that marie is dressed in bridal white,complete w/ veil in the kingdom scene. and in volkov's BALANCHINE'S TCHAIKOVSKY, balanchine is on record saying this for certain. i think the wording the text, not now at hand, is something like 'and they get married' after he tells the story of marie and little prince in the kingdom of sweets.
i know the reindeer sleigh was added later, i'm not now positive how the little couple exited the ballet in the original balanchine version.
mel's description of hayden's sugarplum demeanor sounds like she too recognized the nuptials of the little royal couple.
if anyone really cares to have the full citation, i'll try to locate the wiley essay and post the issue no. and date of DANCE RESEARCH.

#20 BW

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 07:14 AM

Thank you rg - I'd be interested in reading more on the subject... Forgive me, but is DANCE RESEARCH a publication that one can get a hold of easily...as in the library or, better yet, online?

Although I've seen NYCB's version several times before, it was this past Saturday night that Marie's wedding veil really struck me... The other part I hadn't really noticed before was that, at the end of Act I, Drosselmeier walks Marie and the Nephew forward, towards the front of the stage, and they take their bows. Apparently it's always done this way...but somehow I was surprised as it seemed to break the spell... Has it truly always been done this way?

#21 rg

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 07:58 AM

a few follow up comments:
firstly, perhaps i hallucinated about the later addition of departure of the little couple in the sleigh. i can't see it listed as an addition in CHOREOGARPHY BY BALANCHINE, so perhaps it was always thus, even in the initial Horace Armistead scheme.
secondly, in BALANCHINE'S TCHAIKOVSKY, volkov has balanchine suggesting that 'Marie may have dreamed the whole thing' but this is after he 'states' that 'The grateful Nutcracker brings her to the kingdom of toys and sweets and then marries her.' p. 178.
thirdly, wiley's essay appears in DANCE RESEARCH, vol. iii, no. 1, autumn 1984 pp. 3 - 28. the essay is entitled: 'On Meaning in "Nutcracker",' and among other things, in a separate section, called 'Drosselmayer,' notes that 'Drosselmayer's thoughts, moreover, fit nicely into the conceptual milieu of Russian language and culture, which adds strengh to the rational based on the logic of the story. The old man's musings constitute a kind of meditation denoted by the Russian work "duma." A "duma" is not a dream; it is not necessarily a logical progression of ideas. It is a collection of of thoughts and images, freely associated, of the kind that happens when one daydreams and the mind gently wanders. A "duma," however, is inherently serious in aspect; the word conveys precisely the quality of Tchaikovsky's thoughts while crossing the Atlantic.' - throughout the essay wiley weaves in details of tchaikovsky's biography, including recounting his travels during the time he was composing 'casse noisette.'
fyi: DANCE RESEARCH is not available to the best of knowledge any way but to members of Britain's "Society of Dance Research." A subscription is part of being a member. i think it may be a quartely, but i'm not positive. so alas, no, it's not readily available for sale in bookstores, but libraries with a serious interest in dance would likely have it.

#22 BW

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 08:50 PM

Thank you rg - now I can have something specific to ask the librarians at the NY Performing Arts Library when I finally get over there. :)

#23 Mel Johnson

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Posted 31 December 2002 - 03:27 AM

I think we may be looking at some "overlaying" of story over the original libretto. If I remember correctly, in the Balanchine production, the Nutcracker cuts a crown from one of the seven heads of the Mouse King, and gives it to Clara/Marie. In Russian eyes, this would not only be a symbol for creating her royalty, but of Orthodox marriage - remember the crowns used in the ceremony?

In the Armistead version, the kids just got back into the shell-boat, and off they went. I remember being very startled when the sleigh was added for the present production. In the original libretto, they stay onstage in the Kingdom of Sweets, ruling over it as Prince and Princess Regnant and an apotheosis of a huge bee-skep appears in a quick transformation before curtain. As I noted in the article back at the main page, bees are a classic symbol for industry and produce honey. Of course, they also sting, which xenophobic Russians duly would note. Please note that a bee-skep looks an awful lot like the Crown Imperial of Russia!

#24 BW

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Posted 11 August 2003 - 07:53 AM

As I was browsing the Links section today, I came across this post by Ari about a new book that's coming out in October by Jennifer Fisher called Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World, click on this link and scroll down until you see the post. Perhaps it will make a nice Christmas present? :grinning:

#25 bart

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 07:51 AM

We've been transferring a number of older Nutcracker threads to the new Nutcracker sub-forum. (Thanks, cubanmiamiboy, for all your search-and-revive efforts.)

These threads are all worth revisiting and reviving, especially now that we are we approaching the North American "Nut" season.

This particular thread, focusing on the story elements, has some exceptionally interesting and informed commentary by rg, Mel, Leigh, BW, and others. The topic is NOT exhausted, I suspect.

Anyone have some new ideas. examples, or even disagreements?

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 09:10 AM

what struck me, was that I'd never, ever, considered "The Nutcracker" to be a story about "a girl child's sexual awakening" at all. :eek: Am I alone in this - in being so naive? Or is it possible that since I've only really seen the Balanchine or "Balanchinish" versions that I missed this? Of course, now that it's been pointed out, I can certainly see how one might draw these conclusions... I'm sorry but I'm too ignorant and lazy to look up Sigmund Freud's time line to see if his concept of "the dream" might have had any impact on any of the earlier Nutcracker versions...

Care to comment or fill me in on this holiday fare?


I recently bought the Kirkland/Baryshnikov version, and aside from the beautiful dancing, I did find the treatment of the story quite bizarre. I had never seen a Nutcracker with such a strong "love story" connotation, which reached its climax during the Act II Pas de deux-a-trois. The whole feeling of this dancing segment, along with Drosselmayer's looks to Clara, gave me an uneasy feeling. Believe it or not, the term "pedophilia" came to my mind. I mean...how old is Clara's character thought to be in this particular version...16, 17...?
Is Drosselmayer somehow jealous of Clara's dancing with the Nutcracker...? -(because, seriously, that's how I perceived it). Also, there were the looks of Clara-(or perhaps Gelsey...?)-to the Nutcracker-(could it be just Misha...?)-with such DEVOTION, which were not reciprocated.
The ending was weird too...Kirkland's heavily made up doll-like face looking sad across the window wasn't that of an innocent girl...that face was saying way more.

Brrr...weeeeeeeeeeeird... :speechless-smiley-003:

#27 richard53dog

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 11:58 AM

I recently bought the Kirkland/Baryshnikov version, and aside from the beautiful dancing, I did find the treatment of the story quite bizarre. I had never seen a Nutcracker with such a strong "love story" connotation, which reached its climax during the Act II Pas de deux-a-trois. The whole feeling of this dancing segment, along with Drosselmayer's looks to Clara, gave me an uneasy feeling. Believe it or not, the term "pedophilia" came to my mind. I mean...how old is Clara's character thought to be in this particular version...16, 17...?
Is Drosselmayer somehow jealous of Clara's dancing with the Nutcracker...? -(because, seriously, that's how I perceived it). Also, there were the looks of Clara-(or perhaps Gelsey...?)-to the Nutcracker-(could it be just Misha...?)-with such DEVOTION, which were not reciprocated.
The ending was weird too...Kirkland's heavily made up doll-like face looking sad across the window wasn't that of an innocent girl...that face was saying way more.

Brrr...weeeeeeeeeeeird... :speechless-smiley-003:


I think my thoughts sort of go along with cmb on this....

I had this video briefly a few years back. It just seemed too creepy for me and I didn't think it was something I thought I would want to return to so I donated the DVD to a library.

#28 canbelto

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Posted 11 September 2010 - 09:13 PM

I agree that the Baryshnikov Nut is kind of weird, and definitely has a creepy pedophilia tone in the pas de deux/trois. But I also kind of don't know if the weirdness is magnified by:
1. it being a studio filmed production, that might have been slightly changed from the stage production.
2. the presence of Gelsey Kirkland. When I watch this video it's Kirkland's persona that is the most striking. She looks girlish enough, but just seems to have a moody intensity that seems a little ... wrong for Nutcracker.

I notice that most "filmed" studio Nutcrackers tend to seem a lot more adult-oriented. The NYCB film of Balanchine's Nutcracker for instance doesn't particularly strike me as being a joyous family affair, and we all know that Mr. B's Nutcracker is probably the most child-like of all Nutcrackers. In fact, it's been accused of being too childlike.

I don't know, does anyone remember seeing the Baryshnikov Nutcracker staged and if they did, did it indeed have the creepy overtones that the film has?

#29 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 02:42 PM

With regard to the Balanchine production, I just wanted to say that it has never struck me that Marie and the Prince return whence they came at the end of the ballet. If that was their intent, they'd get back in the boat and turn around. Instead they get on a sleigh that goes flying off in the same direction. Maybe I'm being too doggedly literal in my interpretation of the mechanics of stage action, but I always assumed they were soaring away to a realm of their own, full of wonders we can't even imagine.

And I cannot bear to believe, in my heart, that any of it is just a dream!


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