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Is Nutcracker the Greatest Ballet Ever Made?


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you wrote: I also don't particularly like a SB with lots of small children dancing in it--I pay to see professionals, not recitals

so what's about all the children in the Russian ballet companies: Raymonda, corsaire, Pharoah's Daughter, etc?

They put the children in to give them valuable early stage experience.

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Early stage experience not only includes performing, but observing how the theater works: including all of the social intricacies, how to change costume and put on make-up -- Merrill Ashley wrote in her book that she was asked to be in the corps, had no idea how to put on makeup, and had to get help from someone else in the corps -- what all of the backstage people do, how to behave, and how to focus in the midst of lots of activity.

Petipa ballets are hierarchical, and they include the youngest trained child to the oldest character dancer. Virtuosic male variations were added for younger dancers in the big pas de deux, so that older princes, like Pavel Gerdt, could partner. They were very long in their originals -- their audience was in no rush -- and there was a sense of pagentry. In the last century, they've been modernized and stripped down, and they often lose their balance and proportion. In some productions the kids look like filler, because the context is lost, but the original audience understood how they belonged.

The only reason Balanchine was in the Imperial Ballet School in the first place was that his mother was determined to get her children accepted to an Imperial School regardless of subject, since they would be guaranteed -- or so she, like most Russians, thought at the time -- a paid education (which happened) and then lifetime employment with the Tsar (which did not). It was only because he couldn't get a spot in the naval school that his mother sent him, along with his sister, to apply for the ballet school.

For him ballet was a drudge of classroom exercises -- there were no tickets for kids in the school back then -- until he became a student performer, and then his interest bloomed.

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