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Bob Hick's Nutcracker Review


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I'm going to respectfully take Bob Hicks to task over some comments made in his review of The Nutcracker.

(See LINKS Dec 13 for full text)

Every moment, every motion, is tied to the rhythm of the music, and every step, no matter how mundane, is a part of the dance.

That's a very far cry from the OBT "Nutcracker" of the past 10 years, in which much of the action was simply walked through. That production, choreographed by James Canfield and designed by Campbell Baird, was brisker and more contemporary-feeling, and it was stunning to look at. But it was also very much less about the dancing.

New artistic director Christopher Stowell's decision to scrap the Canfield/Baird version and bring on the Balanchine fits neatly with his determination to reclaim ballet tradition as the focal point of everything OBT does. That's an almost complete reversal of direction from the Canfield years, when the dances were so driven by pop-culture influences that the company often felt more like a contemporary dance troupe

I felt this a rather brusque dismissal of Canfield's beautiful and beautifully danced Nutcracker. I don’t think that Bob should try to overlay Canfield's rock/contemporary reputation onto his purely classical Nutcracker. One of the dangers of thinking about the Canfield years is to only remember the controversial modern sensibility he brought to his company, which resulted in sometimes wildly successful, sometimes flat work, even within the same piece (Go Ask Alice for example). But one should not forget the classical ballets he staged: Giselle, Romeo & Juliet (With NYCB's Tom Gold) and of course, most consistently of all, the Nutcracker.

To say that it was "very much less about the dancing" is a rather surprising evaluation of such a carefully classically danced Nutcracker. In fact, because Canfield’s dual storylines (Marie’s first love and her dreams of becoming a ballerina) emphasize company member performances, and much of the children’s lengthy participation was replaced by company dancing one could make a strong case, especially regarding the first act, that Canfield's Nutcracker was “more about the dancing”, if only because it had more company performances as opposed to children's shenanigans, processions and reels.

And let me tell you, it is a lot more interesting watching a professional Marie & Prince dance a full out pas de deux than children walking about the stage.

In fact, if one wants to watch a Nutcracker "simply walked through" (or sat through) there is no better example than the roles of the Nephew/Nutcracker and Marie in Balanchine's Nutcracker.

How soon we forget...


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