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Nutcracker Wars

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Recently the National Ballet of Canada announced that, as last year, it will beam its production of The Nutcracker live into movie theatres (of the Cineplex-Odeon persuasion). Last year this decision drew protests from the artistic directors of other Canadian ballet companies, who feared that the broadcast would poach viewers from their productions. Furthermore, the Empire Theatres chain had opted to show the San Francisco Ballet's version that same afternoon, all leading to a great deal of unnecessary competition.

This year the National Ballet will broadcast its Nutcracker on the afternoon of December 13. The San Francisco Nutcracker, though not a live broadcast, has been scheduled to run on the same afternoon since at least July. Both movie showings will interfere with the opening of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens' Nutcracker in Montreal, the Edmonton run of Alberta Ballet's new Nutcracker, and Ballet Jörgen's Group of Seven Nutcracker in Ottawa.

What gives? I understand Empire Theatres wanting to run the SFB Nutcracker before it airs on PBS the following week. Is there any particular reason why the National Ballet of Canada chose to broadcast its version on the same day at more or less the same time? Why didn't it heed last year's plea from the ADs of other companies to broadcast something other than The Nutcracker, say, Cranko's Romeo and Juliet in March or Giselle in May? At a time when Ballet BC is struggling to survive in a hostile economic climate, do we really need these Nutcracker wars?

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...I hate all this weird stuff around this masterpiece. Let's move it from "seasonal" to "regular/soviet" schedule to get it over with. Done deal. (Don't hate me) :wacko:

I like it the seasonal way. You probably grew up with it the other way, I grew up with the Balanchine and it's all about Xmas to me. One thing that ought to be revamped or discarded is the music for 'Grand Pas de Deux'. This is such pathetic Tchaikovsky, there are numerous composers who could come in and write a good one and still be a pas de deux. Nothing but a descending scale for one octave over and over and over, not even as good as Czerny, about on the level of a Hanon exercise. What's especially weird about this is that all the other pieces are characterful and charming, even if not heavy serious stuff (they're not supposed to be.) But this is like an academic exercise a student in first year conservatory would write. That won't change whether Xmas or Soviet, and people have gotten used to it. It took me till just now to realize how really anticlimactic this piece is, it's anything but grand, and the choreography (by almost anyone who makes it) is already better and just needs a new musical piece. This one has no emotion, no passion, no character, no nothing, and the dancers just do the best they can to make it seem 'grand'.

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Recently the National Ballet of Canada announced that, as last year, it will beam its production of The Nutcracker live into movie theatres (of the Cineplex-Odeon persuasion). Last year this decision drew protests from the artistic directors of other Canadian ballet companies, who feared that the broadcast would poach viewers from their productions.

Laste year's discussion of this story is here: http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonis...04-b5cde981a051

Marga? Paquita? NBofC fans? Any new thoughts about the Canadian Nutcracker Wars? Is there, for example, any evidence that regional and local Nuts were hurt in 2007? Does NBofC need the money that badly?

My town has had its own Nutcracker Wars for several seasons. Miami City Ballet brought their Balanchine version to the Kravis Center just a few weeks before Ballet Florida's regular week-long stand of its own version. There was much resentent at BF, I can tell you. I don't know how many seasons this competition continued, but last year MCB (down to just 2 performances) played to tiny houses, possibly because the dates were in November and Ballet Florida stresses that they are a local company in their marketing. This year MCB decided to skip West Palm and will be performing the Nutcracker only in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

To cliches come to mind about all this: (1) It's a no-win situation; and (2) Enough is enough.

P.S. For those who want to discuss the Nutcracker phenomenon in general, here's an on-going thread going back to 2002!


You'll find lots of thoughts and opinions on that thread, I assure you. :wacko::thumbsup:

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The National Ballet has lost quite a lot of money on the stock market, though its Nutcracker ticket sales are good.


Let me reiterate that beaming ballet into Canadian cinemas is a wonderful idea, particularly since the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation lost interest in the performing arts a long time ago, cutting back broadcasts year after year until nothing was left. It's the choice of repertoire and the timing of the showings that I question. In the National Ballet's defence I will say that most available Saturday afternoons have been taken over by live Met broadcasts or their repeat showings, so you could blame the Metropolitan Opera's success for the National Ballet's limited access to movie screens. Under the circumstances, it may well be that the NBoC won't be able to broadcast anything other than The Nutcracker, which isn't exactly what I hoped the new digital entertainment universe would bring, which won't do anything to alleviate the resentment of other companies, and which is likely to bring diminished returns over time as the production becomes overly familiar.

Speaking strictly as a ballet fan, it irritates me to be forced to choose between simultaneous broadcasts and performances of The Nutcracker. Ideally I would like to have the opportunity to see them all, and for this reason alone I'd wish for better coordination. I don't think the Canadian ballet audience is large enough to sustain the present level of competition.

Perhaps it's time to consider Sunday matinees? For one thing the bunheads are less likely to be in class, boosting the potential audience pool.

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From the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's official website, as per Google's translator.

"Some considerations on The Nutcracker PDD"

by Mme. Alicia Alonso

"Although for some years the Ballet Nacional de Cuba did not maintained in its repertoire the complete version of The Nutcracker, it has often been interpreted in various stagings of significant portions of the work, like the Sugar Plum Fairy Grand Pas de Deux from the second act, the Snow Scene from the first act, the Russian Dance (inserted in the excerpt from The Sleeping Beauty presented with the title of The Marriage of Aurora) and the Waltz of the Flowers . The full version of the Nutcracker was revived along with the happy coincidence of the fiftieth anniversary of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, being conceived in the first place as close as possible to the original style of the play set up by Ivanov, who contributed his own nuances within the heritage of Petipa and his choreography. In terms of the drama, without violating the conventions that require theater-style and practices of the time, just as with other works of the nineteenth century I have tried to achieve the synthesis and logic that the nowadays public demands even in the most authentic representations of these classics.

I gave the utter importance to the Grand Pas de Deux from the second act, and to some extent I've taken it as a stylistic basis or starting point for the assembly of all the work. So I find useful to address and establish some details about this Pas de Deux, given its exemplary character in the classical tradition and also because, fortunately, the version that we submitted to the National Ballet of Cuba corresponds closely to the original created by Ivanov, both from the point of view of choreography and style. The Pas de Deux of the second act of Nutcracker was, for decades, a significant number in my repertoire. I often included in concerts and continued dancing its big beautiful adagio almost until i left the stage. Because of the historical importance of this Pas de Deux in the ballet I have put special care in the purity of style and strict adherence to what is preserved of the choreography devised by Ivanov. Nowadays, you can see different versions onstage, not always successful in its conception and its choreographic style. Back during the forties when I was getting prepared to dance for the first time this famous classical duo I basically followed the choreography then interpreted by Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. The version of Markova was reliable in terms of its loyalty, as she had centralized the first entry that was made by the choreography of Ivanov outside Russia, made in England by Nikolai Serguéiev earlier in the thirties. When The Nutcracker premiered at the Mariinsky Theater in 1892 Serguéiev was a student at the Imperial Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg. He then went quickly to integrate the Ballet Company to later become, for many years, its ballet master and regisseur general. He always had great prestige in taking care of the classical tradition, to which he was a great connoisseur, and later after the soviet revolution he arrived in London with choreographic notations of a dozen ballets from the repertory of Mariinsky. Aside from his years of work in the care of the classics at the Mariinsky, Serguéiev dominated a choreographic notation method. This was very important, because the choreography of Ivanov was starting to be forgotten. At the end of the twenties, Fyodor Lopukov had made an entirely new version of The Nutcracker for the Kirov in Leningrad (former Mariinsky), and while Serguéiev staged the Nutcracker of Ivanov in London, Vasili Vainonen premiered his new version at the Kirov. As for the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, from many years before Alexander Gorski had done his own version, which in turn was replaced later by that of Vainonen.

Although I already knew the Pas de Deux as it had been brought to London by Serguéiev, I also started an exhaustive labor of investigation of all the sources available, analyzing everything that I could, trying to achieve the finest choreographic accuracy and stylistic purity of the original agreement with Ivanov. To do this I counted with the invaluable assistance of Alexandra Fedorova, who had been one of the most influential teachers in my training. Fedorova, sister -in-low of Mikhail Fokine, had graduated very early in the century in the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, to later become an outstanding soloist at the Marinsky, where she belonged for many years. It was also a person of great ballet culture and possessed a remarkable choreographic memory, which had enabled her to mount with great success in 1928 the full version of the original Ivanov at the Opera Ballet of Riga, where she worked for a long time, and in 1940 bringing that version to the Russian Ballet de Monte Carlo , where I danced it in 1957.

Right then and there I brought piece by piece the choregraphy that i have danced from Markova and assembled by Serguéiev and compared it to the version remembered by Fedorova, and we found that the Pas de Deux from the second act was essentially identical. It should be understood that interpreting a classic work faithfully in choreographic style is not to say exactly the same thing of the time of its premiere. The technical and performance staging are not kept static, but evolve. The technique becomes more perfect, and from the point of expressive view it is going to be of a greater simplicity, a synthesis. The talent of the artist will demonstrate whether he or she is capable of reaching the audience of today, to match its psychology and culture, without betraying the choreography nor the style, with regard to the most valid and characterized landmarks of this elements.

In the interpretation of the Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker it should not be forgotten that, while this is a pas de deux purely academic, its spirit and its wealth of details have, in the classical style, different characteristics to other pas de deux, as the Aurora's Wedding's Pas de Deux, for example. The characters of the Nutcracker Pas de Deux (in English-speaking countries, the female role is described as The Sugar-Plum Fairy, and in France as La Fee Dragée), belong to a world of fantasy. In this matters they do match the Princess Aurora and Prince Desiré of Sleeping Beauty. But Aurora and Désiré are within the story , within the fantasy, real characters. And as such, its elegance is more "courtesan", the dynamics of their movement more "human", the mechanics of academicism is a little more conscious or accentuated. Aurora and Desiré seek a more clear line and elegance, the aristocratic or noble gesture. Meanwhile, in The Nutcracker, the characters of the Sugar Plum fairy and his knight are the quintessence of fantasy. They come from an impossible country of dazzling sweets, conceived in the dream of a girl. This dream world is manifested in a fabulously delicious manner, just as the illusions of children are able to create. Therefore, while being a classic duo, their dancing always expresses a certain dazzling romanticism . It's like a sweetness with flashes, within the classical sobriety. Here the male dancer plays a gentleman who is a sort of a military fantasy. Is a prince who, without ceasing to be a classic, has a demicaractère tone. That brings in some candor, some martial aura carried on in his positions, and the musical accents of his dancing are a little more marked, or "cutting". The ballerina , which in this case is a fairy, ought to display romantic majesty, femininity and modesty. Her dancing should be light, airy, highly sensitive, with the focus very sharply upward. It's a sensation similar to that of the romantic ballet, the second act of Giselle, for example, but this effect is achieved within the specific ways in which technology is used in the classic style, which is different from Giselle. It is not easy, of course, gathering such a wide range of elements in a pas de deux that also imposes major technical requirements. I pointed out that these differences, exemplified with the comparison of two classical pas de deux, are of great importance because these are nuances of different levels within the unreal that distinguish these very similar works at first glance . In general, if we fail to qualify our dance and our interpretation, denying the different shades and colors to a technique which basis is the same, the dancer's interpretation can sadly impoverish the high quility of the art of ballet.

Another very characteristic of the ballet The Nutcracker is the Snow scene . Here the main focus is on another major central Pas de Deux, which is interpreted in the first act by the Snow Queen and her King, a duo that requires extreme classicism, but with a totally unrealistic projection, to convey to the viewer the sense of what is seen is completely ephimeral... these are beings made of snow, which can be dissolved at any moment. That's why they are impersonal and airy, which makes them very difficult to interpret, reason that explains why this Pas de Deux is sadly removed from many versions nowadays. In this scene, the corps de ballet should have also that ephimeral character, consubstantial with the snowflakes. All that distinguishes the Snow scene, in terms of style and form from the so-expressive features scenes of "ballet blanc" acts of other works of the great classical repertoire".

Note: I'm happy to get to see this version again staged by the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami this year. It's been 7 years since i don't see the PDD onstage, and i miss it...

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Those are very interesting remarks by Alonso on the 2nd Act pas de deux. They ring true, but internally contradictory for me--in that what is required and given is still so 'demi-caractere' that it does seem to be more the 'classical sobriety' and 'classical duo', and is a matter of perception if one finds this 'dazzlingly romantic'. I don't, because I find that it is indeed stiff. If this 'military' quality is wanted, it's a different kind of 'romantic', one that makes the Sugar Plum Fairy have to be less of a fairy, and 'get married' or something (but not like Brunnhilde once de-immortalized and awakened by Siegfried, which is long and drawn out, not sudden)--but more like people in the everyday military do it than Aurora and Desire. It's too small a piece within the 2nd act for me to make too much more of, and maybe does serve as a useful contrast to all the 'charm sweets pieces', but I still think the music makes it come across as another miniature--this time a 'miniature kind of grand', maybe it works if you think of them as toys too, but while the Miniature Overture is perfection, this is compromise, because the dancing itself is rapturous when the dancers are first-rate.

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