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The Nutcracker always does its magic. Last night's Nutcracker at MCB, and while absorbed in the wonders of Tchaikovsky's beautiful music and Balanchine's vintage staging, I went into ruminations, particularly during Act I. This is an act full of social behavior lessons, and a painful reminder of how times have changed in this aspect. Right from the start one can see the children interacting actively with the adult world, and at times, imitating their codes-(as with the square dance)-right from such early age. My mother once told me that this reminded her of her pre communist childhood, where Christmas were celebrated in full regalia in Cuba, families got together, and just as with the ballet, children would look forward to it as an unique treat. I didn't get to live those days, as way before I was born Christmas had been banned by Castro, including Christmas trees. There are other signs of a time gone by...as the male adults introducing little girls into the dancing realm...(There are some short clips of the last Grand Duchesses dancing with adult officers on board of the Czar's yacht Standard...and little Anastasia just looks as one of those girls from the Nutcracker). Nowadays I don't think a male adult would dare to do such a thing in a party. From Act I one can tell that little children were expected to behave in certain way, and they knew it. Curtsies were implemented, and reprimanding a bad behavior wasn't rare. There is also the age hierarchy, and the way it used to be highly regarded-(way before nursing homes with forgotten aging relatives in them were invented). The grandparents get into the ballroom and they become the center of attention, everybody trying to provide for their comfort. How beautiful.

Oh well...

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I threw up at my first nutcracker. It wasn't the dancers! I ate too many sweets at the party beforehand. It was a community production, and I made it through the sleigh arriving in the 2nd act, and then I was sick. My mom says she took me to see the old PNB Christensen production, but I don't have any memories of it. I adored the Stowell-Sendak production for years, then I was "too cool for school" and ballet (and hanging out with my mom) held little interest for me. Then about 7 years ago I went back to see PNB's production, had excellent seats and realized what a wonderful show it really was. I saw the NYCB 1993 version on PBS and it seemed so saccharine in comparison. I've watched Ovation's battle of Nutcrackers and all of them seem overly sweet. And I don't like the Mariinsky revised storyline, the original ETA Hoffman version is much more linear and interesting to me as an adult.

Sad to say, but transplanting the Balanchine Nut to Seattle isn't that exciting to me from a choreography perspective either. It's been done. It's been overdone. It's been imitated by others. It's been "transformed" by Alvin Ailey, Mark Morris and other modernists. Call me bah humbug. That's fine. But I'd rather see fresh steps.

I think I've just seen too much Nut and now I need to cleanse my palette. The Royal Ballet is doing "Alice in Wonderland" this December and I think it's so smart to alternate stories in December. Will there come a day when American audiences are saturated with Nuts and the market switches to something else?

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