Jump to content
Ballet Lover

Heather Watts' TED Talk - Major Mistake about Nutcracker - Balanchine did not create the first Nutc

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

Heather Watt's is wonderful and a good speaker but her whole thesis about The Nutcracker is so off the mark.  the first American Nutcracker was created by Willam Christensen for San Francisco in 1944 (10 years before Balanchine created his). Christensen was tutored by Balanchine and Danilova before creating his version but all the things Ms. Watt's says Balanchine created had already been done, not just by Christensen but there were other full length American Nutcrackers as well between 1944-1954.

I'm surprised she would make such a big mistake in such a platform.

Edited by Ballet Lover

Share this post


Link to post
Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, Ballet Lover said:

Heather Watt's is wonderful and a good speaker but her whole thesis about The Nutcracker is so off the mark.  the first American Nutcracker was created by Willam Christensen for San Francisco in 1944 (10 years before Balanchine created his). Christensen was tutored by Balanchine and Danilova before creating his version but all the things Ms. Watt's says Balanchine created had already been done, not just by Christensen but there were other full length American Nutcrackers as well between 1944-1954.

I'm surprised she would make such a big mistake in such a platform.

You're of course right about Christensen staging the first full-length Nutcracker in the U.S., but the Nutcracker didn't really become a holiday tradition in the U.S. until Balanchine and the NYCB began annual stagings of the Balanchine version. And that was based entirely on his memory of the version danced at the Mariinsky. For better or worse, Balanchine was more influential regarding The Nutcracker, but I have to think it helped matters that SFB was also staging The Nutcracker performances, and it wasn't long before companies across North America were staging The Nutcracker during the Christmas holiday season.

Being a West Coast person, I've always been aware that the East Coast pays little attention to developments out West.  😉

Edited by pherank

Share this post


Link to post
5 hours ago, pherank said:

Being a West Coast person, I've always been aware that the East Coast pays little attention to developments out West.  😉

Agreed about the East Coast vs. West Coast - as someone who lived and worked in NY for nearly 20 years.

And you are correct that Nutcracker took off as a National holiday tradition after Balanchine's - indeed if I am not mistaken it was really in the 1960's when it took off throughout the country.

Watt's was one of my all time favorite dancers and she is certainly articulate and a wonderful speaker and advocate but a TED talk is big forum and should be more carefully researched.

All Christensen disciples and Utahns bristle at this often made mistake about Mr. B's Nutcracker.

Share this post


Link to post
Posted (edited)

There has been  no mention of the Alexandra Fedorova version (former Mariinsky dancer married to a Fokine) which was based on the Ivanov version.  It was the first Nutcracker that most Americans saw on the Ballet Russe tours.  It was in two acts and had the best Grand Pas de Deux you could hope to see---(NO apologies to Balanchine and Ratmansky!)

Edited by atm711

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, atm711 said:

There has been  no mention of the Alexandra Fedorova version (former Mariinsky dancer married to a Fokine) which was based on the Ivanov version.  It was the first Nutcracker that most Americans saw on the Ballet Russe tours.  It was in two acts and had the best Grand Pas de Deux you could hope to see---(NO apologies to Balanchine and Ratmansky!)

Which is the version Alonso staged in Cuba around that same time, leaving intact its grand pdd. Both Fedorova and Leon Fokine were her teachers.

Share this post


Link to post

As another West Coaster, and one from the upper left hand corner, I absolutely agree about our lack of credit where credit is due.

When I was in school in New York, spending all my free time at the dance collection, Monica Moseley (another one from the Northwest) was so kind to me, and said she thought we should have some kind of conference about west coast dance.  The idea is still in the back of my head...

Between its first performances in NYC and its groundbreaking television broadcasts, Balanchine's Nut really has become a standard for American productions, but he finessed its popularity on the earlier productions -- Christensen's and the Ballet Russe version, which toured and toured and toured.  As atm711 says, it was the first version that many people saw, and made a huge impression. 

I'm a little disconcerted at Watts' comments here, since she's speaking to a general audience who won't have much other information to draw on, but the main gist of her comments are about Balanchine's more abstract works and why, at a time when so much art is "about" something, we should still be watching absolute works as well.  And honestly, I'm glad any time a general public hears people taking dance seriously.

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, the Fedorova version is very important to the history of Nut in the U.S. and really got the ball rolling.

Share this post


Link to post
On May 11, 2018 at 3:12 AM, pherank said:

 

Being a West Coast person, I've always been aware that the East Coast pays little attention to developments out West.  😉

Do you mean they make up the past? Or simply don't honor it? Or plagiarize without attribution? Or want different things? Or are stuck in the past?

Share this post


Link to post

I can't speak for pherank, but I mean what I said above -- they don't pay attention.  If you look at most dance writing in the US from the 1920s on, much of the coverage is focused on a fairly small number of communities.  New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia get substantial attention, Boston a little less notice.  When When Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn establish their Los Angeles school and help found American Dancer (the original title of Dance Magazine) they do shift that dynamic a bit, but as the vaudeville circuit morphs into other touring networks in the 30s-40s, the majority of the dance events and groups that are covered are still east-coast based.  And though Dance Magazine does offer coverage of mid-west and west coast artists through their regional reports starting in the mid-century, in part thanks to Dorothy Alexander and her Regional Ballet organization, the local papers in those communities don't have anywhere near the depth of coverage than the east coast publications do.

If you look at standard histories, they spend very little time examining early west coast dance organizations like San Francisco Ballet or Lester Horton's company in LA.  And if you head further north along the coast or east into the mountain west, there's even less information.  I'm not trying to imply bad intentions anywhere -- it's just never been a topic that was discussed in much depth.

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, sandik said:

I can't speak for pherank, but I mean what I said above -- they don't pay attention.  If you look at most dance writing in the US from the 1920s on, much of the coverage is focused on a fairly small number of communities.  New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia get substantial attention, Boston a little less notice.  When When Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn establish their Los Angeles school and help found American Dancer (the original title of Dance Magazine) they do shift that dynamic a bit, but as the vaudeville circuit morphs into other touring networks in the 30s-40s, the majority of the dance events and groups that are covered are still east-coast based.  And though Dance Magazine does offer coverage of mid-west and west coast artists through their regional reports starting in the mid-century, in part thanks to Dorothy Alexander and her Regional Ballet organization, the local papers in those communities don't have anywhere near the depth of coverage than the east coast publications do.

If you look at standard histories, they spend very little time examining early west coast dance organizations like San Francisco Ballet or Lester Horton's company in LA.  And if you head further north along the coast or east into the mountain west, there's even less information.  I'm not trying to imply bad intentions anywhere -- it's just never been a topic that was discussed in much depth.

Exactly. Although there have certainly been important cultural/artistic contributions made outside of the Northeast U.S., the general impression is that, in the U.S., important things happen in New York, especially. And that's because the media finds it convenient to maintain this narrative. 'Nothing is real until it happens in New York'.
> The Fjord Review serves an important function in that they review West Coast dance events consistently, and the writers are good.

Canada seems to have a similar culture clash between West and East provinces (Quebec making a 3rd opponent in the culture wars). And they have the same situation in which the West Coast communities are often very aware of events in Asia/Pacific, but the East Coast communities look to Europe.

Share this post


Link to post
On 5/11/2018 at 2:31 PM, doug said:

Yes, the Fedorova version is very important to the history of Nut in the U.S. and really got the ball rolling.

The Fedorova version of The Nutcracker from the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo was also the version Robert Joffrey used as a framework for his original 1987 version.  George Verdak taught it to the company.

Share this post


Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×