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Nutcracker Reviews, 2006


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No comments / reviews from anyone here on Ballet Talk re NYCB's Nutcrackers so far?!!

Ok, I'll start.... very briefly...

I attended opening night of Nuts, also last night's perf and the night before.

And I'm counting the days before some very interesting new casts arrive!

Sugarplums: I loved, loved, loved Sylve in this role! She's all regal and definitely Land of the Sweets' Queen. A stunning beauty and womanly, as well as technically on top of her craft. Yet, this year, she's added / found an extra crispness to her movements which has made Sylve even more sparkling than in years past. She also covers the stage and dares the partnering more than anyone I've ever seen in this role. Made for a very beautiful and very exciting performance. Brava! And bravo to Chuck Askegard, her partner, for some of the most amazingly difficult partnering all handled with such care and ease.

Whelan and Ringer in the other two performances were lovely in their experienced, matured styles. Whelan actually pulled a rabbit out of her hat on opening night. She was having one of those nights where everything works perfectly and she was radiant!

Dewdrops: In the same performance (11/29/06) with Sylve, I really wanted to love Bouder as Dewdrop, but was sadly disappointed. Her technique, especially jumps and electric speed were more brilliant than ever... my jaw dropped several times...but it's starting to look circusy. A hyper, overly hyper approach, this time, and she did quite a bit of butchering of the music to hold balances, etc. A waltz, Waltz of the Flowers, flows.... and lifts.... It doesn't explode, pop, punch constantly.... And her overly smiley face seemed a bit harsh.... I know you'll all hate me... this Board adores Bouder, but this perf was rather shocking to me....... or perhaps I was just sitting too close (ten rows from the stage).... to appreciate her more.

Sylve in the Dewdrop of opening night was glowing, strong, gorgeous and proudly technical without it being forced.

Kowroski is a physical beauty, but too weak for this part.

Marzipans: Hyltin was at her best on opening night and I saw her a second time as well in this part. I can't wait to see Hyltin in Dewdrop and Sugarplum. She's extremely young, and very technical, a bit wild, but such fun to watch. She's pretty, long limbed, feminine and full of risk taking.

Scheller (11/30/06) was also lovely in a very different way. She's so warm, luxurious in her movements, technically strong, and makes all the difficult steps look easy. Scheller dances Marzipan very well, the audience is comfortable watching her, but I don't think it's a great part for Scheller. It doesn't display, encourage, her personal style much.

Oh, and in Act One (11/29/06), I must mention the parents... done better than I've ever seen by Dena Abergel and Seth Orza. Genuinely happy, accomplished individuals, even greater when together. Respectful, kind, thoughtfully gracious, generous, sensitive, good humored, mature, charming people enjoying every minute of their party, their friends/guests and children. This was a couple to admire both in their connection together and in their connection to everyone, everything that begins the Nutcracker story. I cannot rave enough about Dena and Seth, and how lovingly they brought this Christmas card to life.

Also in Act One, of last night's (11/30/06) performance, Vincent Paradiso must be mentioned. Wow! What an extremely strong, Misha-like soldier doll. Such power and musicality. I can't wait to see Paradiso dance in many, many more parts at NYCB! He was very impressive.

Daniel Ulbricht was also extremely impressive in Hoops on 11/29/06. He's toned down his hard-sell style, and what remains is the incredible talent, joy, musicality and charming youthful style with which he handles any challenging choreography.

However, the newest guest conductor, Arturo Delmoni, at last night's perf..... should be spanked!!! Talk about hyper speed, hyper insanity! The entire ballet was conducted as if there was a fire quickly approaching... Much, much too fast, the entire night. Peter Martins, that's just cruel to your dancers and a painful strain on the musicians and audience.

Still, overall, after years and years of dancing and watching Nutcrackers, I still absolutely adore Mr. B's version. It is my very favorite production, and is always a great treat at this time of year... full of wonderful surprises, full of wonderful joy.

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Thanks so much, sz, for getting the ball rolling. I haven't been to a Nut yet, but I was sure some of our members have, and I'm glad to have gotten such a fine double report.

I am one of the great Bouder fans on this board, but I can see how she may have overdone it. She never dances a role the same way from performance to performance, and much of the excitement of watching her is seeing the chances she takes. Of course, taking chances can be -- well -- chancy.

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Last night Jeny Ringer turned in a performance that was everything a Sugar Plum should be: warm and radiant with some nice technical fireworks. Her admirable partner was Philip Neal. I was disappointed in Maria K.'s Dewdrop, and agree with SZ in that she was surprisingly weak. One of the nice highlights was the pairing of Amar Ramasar and Melissa Barak in Hot Chocolate; they danced full out and with verve. Bravo to both!! Ana Sophia did the lead in Marzipan. With the exception of one little slip (but no fall), it was a secure and delightful performance. Her musicality is a delight. (Could there be a Square Dance in her future?) There was a new young man from SAB as tea (whose name escpaes me at the moment) and he too made a nice first outing in a sure-fire role.

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Wish we had Mr B's "Nutcracker" out here. I love it, it is a really great work, especially the first act, which is one of the greatest things he EVER did. SO poignant, so sweetly homesick, so marvellously detailed -- rather like Joyce's Christmas story, "the Dead" -- the one conventional thing each of them did, and far and away the best thing in that kind anybody did in the twentieth century.

Every part is potentially rich. I remember the first time I saw it, coming from SanFrancisco, I didn't know what to expect really, but god, how it carried me back to the family Christmas parties I remembered from when I was a child, with lots of old people of whom I'd only heard from Mama's generation, and then also "the sofa people," my grandmother's old friends, whom she'd known since convent school. They were legendary, hardly people at all.

In Balanchine's first act, I was fascinated by all the relationships, and among the characters, by the person who seemed most aware of them all, who was Marie's father -- the care and attention he paid to everybody, especially the grandfather! Is it his father or his wife's? Who was Marie's father? had to look him up, he had so much of the right feeling. It was Christopher Wheeldon.

"Snow was general all over Ireland.'

If you like "The Nutcracker," let me recommend that you read "The Dead," last story in "Dubliners."

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I'm an Act I man as well, Paul. Nanatchka once explained one of its charms beautifully. To her, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier are a parallel ideal to Herr & Frau Stahlbaum in the first act - idealized couples that represent the route to adulthood for Marie. I love how the adults "teach" the children to dance by example in the Act I social dances.

But I haven't been at all this season. (Not that I can complain. I saw Beauty in London instead.)

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Paul, I have often observed a connection between Joyce’s The Dubliners and good choreography. More accurately, I’ve thought how useful it could be for today’s choreographers who turn out bad stuff to pick up a copy and read it. The way each and every short story works completely and wonderfully on its own; the unifying symbolism (clouds, snow, paralysis, epiphanies, disease) within the stories that weaves them together to create such a substantial whole; the character development --- it’s everything that great 'story' choreography should be. Act I of Balanchine's Nutcracker is so fully crafted with character details, you have to wonder why he didn't do more of this sort of thing. Thanks for bringing it up.

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Act I of Balanchine's Nutcracker is so fully crafted with character details, you have to wonder why he didn't do more of this sort of thing.

Speaking of Sleeping Beauty.... It's been well known for a long time that Mr. B wanted to create his own version.... Ah, if only he had had more time.... I have no doubt, it would have been DIVINE.

Back to NYCB's Nuts... Anybody go on Sunday for Reichlen in Sugarplum, Scheller in Dewdrop, Peck in Marzipan and Hanna's return to NYCB as Cavalier?

I remember Reichlen's debut in the part last year... Astonishing beautiful. This time around it wasn't quite as fresh, other worldly, or alive. Although Reichlen's overall style is so lovely, graceful and very comfortable on stage, she looked a bit too comfortable... too relaxed for a fairy-type Queen. Didn't help either that her partner, Hanna, had some really rough moments partnering her.

Although I was happy to see Hanna back, looking so strong and happy... he seemed to lack a good deal of sensitive partnering. Reichlen was often hanging out there on pointe in huge arabesques all alone before he'd suddenly remember it was his clue to catch her. Very strange overall, Hanna's partnering of Reichlen... It wasn't what I would have cast for her. Hanna was neither princely or graceful.

It was still worth the price of the tickets to see Reichlen execute those two beyond gorgeous stag leaps to both sides after her solo. Those effortless grand jumps, are still the most beautiful leaps ever. Each one covers the entire stage, seemingly suspended, floating on air instead of punched out. One to the right, breathtaking, and immediately repeated to the left. Like a gentle breeze on a warm, spring day. I could go on and on.... Instead I'll just add that I'm looking forward to an upcoming performance with Reichlen again this time with LaCour as her partner. LaCour was Reichlen's partner at that wonderful debut last year. I think they will have no problem bringing back their magic.

Scheller in Dewdrop yesterday danced one of her best performances. It's perked up quite a bit since last year and has gotten more confident as well. It was a Dewdrop you didn't want to end. Pretty, strong, bright flashes of technique on top of her fine musicality and warm, womanly style. This is Scheller at some of her best dancing to date. Can't wait to see more.

Peck in Marzipan was perfectly suited and danced with pure joy. Is there a part that she doesn't look as though she is at her happiest?! Quite amazing how her smile, her interpretation of roles is always so bright and genuine. If there were ever a blackout at the theater, Peck would still light up the stage. A welcome sight in this role that can be full of stressful concentration.

And... I couldn't take my eyes off of Protas and Morgan, the new apprentices in the corps of Spanish during yesterday's matinee. Morgan is such a beauty, and the music flows through her effortlessly. She's one of those dancers that is a vessel for the music rather than dancing on top of the music. Hard to explain.... But some dancers breathe the music, while others are dancing *to* the music. It's quite easy to see that Morgan, depending on her overall strengths, could easily have a big future at NYCB.

Ditto Protas who seems on fire with his diamond-cut precision, endless energy and beautiful lines.

I'm expecting we'll see a lot of these two dancers in the upcoming Winter Season. I'd love to see Morgan dance Coffee right now! And Protas -- in any of the male Nut soloist roles.... he's ready!

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Yes, I also agree that Ana Sophia Sheller gave a fantastic Dew Drop performance. She is so techically strong as well as a performer. She and Tiler Peck should definitely receive a promotion soon. I also loved Adam Hendrickson in Candy Cane, and Melissa Barak and Amar Ramasar gave a strong performance as Hot Chocolate.

As for Kathryn Morgan and David Prottas, I couldn't agree more! David is such a clean dancer. It seems as though every position and every line is picture perfect. Kathryn is clearly going to be a big name in the future. Her Carousel performance was just beautiful, and she has so much stage presence at such a young age. Didn't she also do Juliet in Saratoga? That is really amazing that she is getting these roles as an apprentice!

However, I think that every single dancer in City Ballet is incredible, and kudos to them all for making each Nutcracker performance so wonderful!

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I'm getting to this late but, regarding last Thursday -- the Ringer, Neal, Kowroski cast --

Maria Kowroski did, I thought, a fine job of putting Dewdrop over as a whole for the audience, despite it being an incredibly difficult bit of casting for her. Whatever technical notes one may have on her performance, the Flower Waltz achieved a very good result -- both that dance and Nutcracker as a whole succeeded as an experience, and surely that is the most important standard. She emphasized the parts that come naturally to her -- the balances in high attitude alongee for instance; phrased very well and musically throughout; was engaged on stage, warm and passionate; danced lyrically within the piece. And what I particularly liked, she didn't try to blow by the hard parts and the stuff that doesn't come easily to her -- the jumped pas de chats for example -- instead she appeared to gulp down a deep breath of air and attack them. I liked the approach.

Speaking of not avoiding the hard parts -- does anyone who dances Arabian still try to do the pirouettes on bent knee in the coda? That's a lovely bit, a challenge in that role: I hate to see it drop out of the choreography, yet in two years I haven't now seen a dancer attempt them.

One other note about that performance was how well Jennifer Ringer phrased her dance at the beginning of Act II, the one to the concertina with the Angels on stage. She was brilliant in that musically. You almost never see that well danced: the key to the phrasing is the stops, the "held pauses" in the melody when Sugarplum consistently spots in a series of balances straight downstage center into the audience. See the old footage of Mary Ellen Moylan dancing the role. Ringer got that just right, better than anyone in years.

Also, while everyone is waxing enthusiastic about the strong crop of apprentices, don't forget Tabitha Rinko-Gay -- she's one who is surprising me with her strength.

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Speaking of not avoiding the hard parts -- does anyone who dances Arabian still try to do the pirouettes on bent knee in the coda? That's a lovely bit, a challenge in that role: I hate to see it drop out of the choreography, yet in two years I haven't now seen a dancer attempt them.

The girls cast for Coffee/Arabian at SAB's Nutcracker perfs in CT will be executing that more difficult coda version with the bent-knee-turn into arabesque (while remaining on pointe).

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I can't understand why the pirouettes have been dropped in the State Theater performances -- I saw two more performances this week -- Melissa Barak and Gwyn Muller in Arabian -- and during their re-entrance at the end (I hestitate to call it a Coda -- see below) it's been the same noodle about, take two two steps and pose for a second in attitude rear on pointe, take two more steps and relevee into the same attitude rear, possibly develop to the side on pointe. It's aimless and appears to have been made up on the spot.

This matters and effects the entire performance. A Coda has to add excitement and compression to what has gone before. That's the reason for a Coda -- Otherwise, in fact, it's not really a Coda at all, just a boring re-entrance for the groups of dancers and the Ballet peters out instead of building to a conclusion. Now there are two difficult things in the Coda that do add excitement -- those pirouettes for Coffee and the whipped attitude turns for Dewdrop. And when you let Coffee just aimlessly noodle around you thus take some of the air out of the end of the Ballet. If the girls can't do the steps they shouldn't be dancing the role. If they can do them and management tells them not to, shame on them.

A note on the Family Benefit performance today -- It was a promising debut for Sterling Hyltin as the Sugarplum Fairy, particularly at the outset when her first variation was excellent and she then showed strong presence (and a rich upper body) and held the stage well when "listening" to the mime. Also the Coda to the Grand Pas was superb -- Hyltin did two beautiful tours of the stage, one with lovely spring to her Sautes de Basques, and then some very strong Picques Turns. Veyette's solo was likewise very impressive.

The Grand Pas on the other hand fell flat or worse. Hyltin will, hopefully, develop as an adagio dancer. This afternoon, though, she didn't have a chance because her partner, Andy Veyette, was so very weak. (Hopefully this was an aberration, I don't remember him being such a poor partner before). Be that as it may, and for whatever reason it happened, Hyltin appeared to have no confidence in him today and for good reason. He nearly dropped her in the Fish Dive Pose at the end of the Pas. On a couple of other occasions, when putting her down after lifts he appeared to pull her out of verticle and then visibly struggle to get control. Always either too close to her or too far away, he was late coming in on the unsupported arabesques to take her by the wrists. It was a hairy, sketchy experience watching this, I must say, and it got hairier as it went along and as you could see her lose confidence in what was happening. It's crucial for a Ballerina to know that her partner is going to be there.

It was a great debut for Ashley Laracey as lead Marzipan, that has to be mentioned. What a talent there -- a tall girl with a big extension, long and high arched feet, yet she has a feathery battery, is fleet footed, has a big jump, and is very lyrical. She's not quite as tall as Kowroski, but not really far off, I think. (I wouldn't call her a Middle girl, she's bigger than that). She ought to get more and here's someone too who is a natural adagio dancer.

Tiler Peck has got to learn to stop smiling so much. She can dance the hell out of Dewdrop (or anything else), no question about that (though, Sandy, you are so right about what Bouder has been doing to some of the phrasing in that role, and the trouble is that now the other women are copying it -- they make some of the things look almost spastic) but her expression is a problem. I don't care if you can do the most difficult things with ease; the overall impression is what matters.


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Saturday Dec. 8 Matinee

I was there too... and in agreement with Michael, that Hyltin seemed off to a fabulous start in her Sugarplum debut. Long lines, regal, pretty, fresh, rich. And Hyltin is certainly capable of adagio. She's shown us this in Divert #15 to a lesser viewing but several times already... when in the hands of good partnering. I think the problems definitely began once Veyette entered for the grand pas. Hyltin suddenly became terribly nervous, and over compensated with a very tight, high-strung energy approach instead of giving it the lushness this adagio requires. I too thought Veyette was very much lacking as a partner.... What a shame...

I thought Muller was overly punchy and hyper too in Arabian/Coffee.... Looked as if she had had too many espressos before her solo entrance.

Ditto Peck, but her Dewdrop was more flattered by this approach. It's full of allegro movement whereas Arabian/Coffee is earthy, sultry. Peck doesn't punch as much as she is on constant extremely high energy mode. She needs some shading definitely... but what fantastic technique! Peck, executes some of the most rock-solid turns I've ever seen in Dewdrop. One day, I have no doubt, she will take on the turning girl lead in Who Cares and it will be absolutely jaw dropping. Hopefully by then Peck will have out grown the constant big smiling which at the moment is a distraction from her beautiful dancing.

Back to the Starbuck's matinee.... Karoui...ugh. Too fast, too fast, too punchy. Stars and Stripes, Sousa, is punchy. Fine. Nutcracker is not. I agree with Michael, this punch-it-out style is going too far at NYCB.... I even saw it with the very feminine corps girls in Waltz of the Flowers this season.... They are suppose to be the lushly, full bloom flowers for the Dewdrop to sparkle upon. What's happening to being able to watch the music at NYCB?

The exception to this overly caffeinated matinee was the lovely Laracey in her Marzipan debut, and yes it was good to see a taller dancer once again. Years back, this part was not reserved for only the smallest females. Kay Mazzo danced it. So did Christine Redpath... to name two medium tall beauties off the top of my head. Karoui conducted this perf's Marzipan with ridiculous speed, but Laracey kept her graceful, feminine cool and didn't let him fluster her much.

As for those pirouettes in Coffee's finale. I certainly think the NYCB dancers can do them, but it's easier to do the step, step and pose version, so they pick that version, or someone is telling them it's ok to pick the easier version. Who's responsible for that?! I agree it would be nice to see the original choreography from time to time.... and much, much more of Mr. B's overall (original) styling...

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As for those pirouettes in Coffee's finale. I certainly think the NYCB dancers can do them, but it's easier to do the step, step and pose version, so they pick that version, or someone is telling them it's ok to pick the easier version. Who's responsible for that?! I agree it would be nice to see the original choreography from time to time.... and much, much more of Mr. B's overall (original) styling...

I agree, they were skipped at the performance I went to also. I miss them and it would really be nice to have the Coffee pirouettes back. I agree with sz that the NYCB women can certainly do them, so where are they??

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I just read the NY Times review of the Nut and compared to Ballet Talk's SZ or Michael, it reads as very amateurish and absent any insight as to what the reviewer saw... aside from a little kid stumbling.

Why can't the Times get people who see well, know dance and write well as does SZ or michael, to do dance reviews? Perhaps this is yet another example of the dumbing down of America.

Reading the reviews is like day and night. Thank you SZ and Michael for the light!

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Given the limitations of space, I thought Gia Kourlas's review covered a lot of ground and gave a good idea of the performance. The most important point was about Sterling Hyltin -- "it's clearly time to bask in her radiance." BT readers already knew this, because among others, SZ and Michael write at some length for balletomanes. Times critics aim for a more general audience.

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Given the limitations of space, I thought Gia Kourlas's review covered a lot of ground and gave a good idea of the performance. The most important point was about Sterling Hyltin -- "it's clearly time to bask in her radiance." BT readers already knew this, because among others, SZ and Michael write at some length for balletomanes. Times critics aim for a more general audience.

All that is true. What I think SanderO was referring to is that both Michael and sz thought there were major problems with the grand pas de deux while the Times review did not. Michael and sz both pointed to some partnering problems, which the Times review made no mention. That's the quandry. If I were to have only read the New York Times review of this performance (the paper of record), I would believe that the performance by Hyltin went without a hitch and was grandly realized. But taking into account the views on the board, I believe that there were a few good things -- the Sugar Plum solo -- and some shaky things (the grand pas de deux).

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Well, I'd be thrilled to see Leigh, Dale or Michael writing for the NYTimes one day soon!!!! Gia has never been a favorite of mine. She sees the surface, but not much else.

I agree that Hyltin and Veyette were physically complimentary - both dirty blonde, thin faces, long limbs. But that's where it ended. They are very different performers/dancers, and although they looked good together physically, they did not create a *real partnership* in this performance.

And as for Laracey, she slipped a bit on her last turn, but didn't fall, it was no major upset, and her tiny slip barely missed a beat before Laracey finished her solo (on the music). It happened so quickly, I doubt the general audience noticed it. So why did Gia have to point this out of all the things that could have been said about this matinee?! Again, a very surfacey thing to have noticed....

Anyway, I'm an educated viewer, not an educated writer, so Ballet Talk is just all fun for me. Thank you SanderO for your compliment. It's always nice to know there are people out there who enjoy reading these things.... I write, because I hope others will too.... seeing that this Board is not just for a group of professional writers.

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I saw Nutcracker on 12/10/at 5 PM. It's difficult for me since the last time I saw this production was over 20 years ago with Farrell/Martins in the lead roles and their performances are emblazoned in my memory. Farrell was just sublime even at that late stage of her career.

Megan Fairchild is a pretty dancer with lovely, super-strong pirouettes. But she lacks the unique combination of radiance and gravitas that SPF requires. This was particularly noticable in the PDD. And the lifts with her partner De Luz weren't that high. I don't think these 2 are well-suited to eachother.

What I recall most vividly is just watching the production unfold and seeing Balanchine's vision of the ballet with all it's magic, humor and glory.

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I'm surprised at what was reported about Veyette, because last year I thought he did a really nice job as a partner with Scheller (in Tchaik pas) and Borree in Donizetti. Actually, it was the best I had seen Borree in a long time, in part, I thought, because of Veyette. It was his debut and sometimes when a veteran performer looks out for the less experienced one, it either hurts their performance or helps it in they are thinking less of their own anxiety. I thought the later happened with Borree and it was nice to see.

But the Nutcracker pas is probably a different story for the man, fraught as it is with many difficulties.

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What I like about this board is that it has some very educated ballet people who in fact do write very well mixed in with people such as myself who are enthusiastic but uneducated... and poor writers to boot! BT is a kind of education for us (me for sure) and without people such as sz, michael, leonid and many others I would very much in the dark. Their commentaries... I mean the educated ones... are what makes me want to see more ballet... because each time I do.. I am getting more and more from the experience.

It is really very generous to share your collective wisdom.

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Their commentaries... I mean the educated ones... are what makes me want to see more ballet... because each time I do.. I am getting more and more from the experience.

It is really very generous to share your collective wisdom.

I'm with you on this, SanderO. :blushing:
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The Farrell/Martins performances of Nutcracker were some of the very, very best....

MarkarovaFan, I agree with you that Megan Fairchild is a pretty dancer with lovely, strong technique, but she lacks that presence, showmanship, style of a truly fine ballerina. However, she is one of those amazingly reliable dancers...

I saw Megan dance four (4!!!) perfs, back-to-back, 3-acts each, of Coppelia (the lead, Swanhilda) in a row!!! Then she was immediately promoted from corps to soloist. I wasn't expecting to like her Swanhilda, but they were *all* really excellent. I ended going to each one because I couldn't believe Megan would remain cast for all four! But she was, and Megan was very perfectly cast for that role. Sugarplum demands something entirely else.

I wish I had seen Megan's Sugarplum. I'll bet her solo was quite lovely.... yet it doesn't take much to imagine that she wasn't a great grand pas adagio dancer (eg long, lush lines, movement), and that DeLuz wouldn't quite handle all the difficult partnering involved. He's not a Cavalier, a role for a strong, experienced-with-partnering male. NYCB certainly needs more Cavaliers....

But you're right, the Balanchine Nutcracker production has always stood up beautifully on its own, with just about any cast.

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