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cubanmiamiboy

Nutcracker 2017

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I was able to catch a performance of the company's Nutcracker during my recent visit to London. To be honest, by now I don't have too many recollections of the performance, although there are some points that stuck to my mind.  One thing I remember thinking was how lucky are we who have Balanchine's production at home.  The Nutcracker is, to me, one of the most difficult ballets to stage, for which is a fine and dangerous line that needs to be defined in order to separate a mere "kid's Christmas show" from yet another XIX Century Petipa/Ivanov/Tchaikovsky masterpiece.

So let's revisit some points. 

The ballet has a lovely intro, with a showing of the outside of the Silberhaus house and people ice skating. Clara is here not a little girl like Balanchine's, nor an adult ballerina like in Vainonen or Grigorovitch.  She dances throughout the party in demi pointe-(I would love to get a final answer on the issue of the original Clara, S. Belinskaya, dancing on full pointe or demi pointe).

Anyhow, the party doesn't look as well organized and structured as Balanchine's.  The minuet is not as organic-(it looked rather like a fantasy dancing instead of a real salon piece), and the toys section was, frankly, quite boring...with many stories and sub stories going on that i had a hard time trying to follow. Here, again, the simplicity and beauty of Balanchine's toys section came to mind.

The battle section.

It is worthy to note than the Nutcracker character shifts between a young guy and a professional dancer.  The end result of the battle is, surprisingly, the defeat of the toy soldiers, who end up being carried away in a cage by the mice, and a wounded Nutcracker on the floor. From there the Nutcracker morphs into the dancer and the young Clara into Clara-ballerina and they dance a very unimaginative long adagio to the Transformation scene music.  Lots of dragging by the armpits...lots of lifts, lots of stage running...the works-(you know what I'm talking about).

The Snow Kingdom.

The snow scene heavily borrows from Vainonen's.  I don't know how many snow scenes I have seen with the obiquitous circling of grand pirouettes for the corps. Here they show them too.  I seem to remember that the mice make yet more showings here. They keep trying to chase Clara and the Nutcracker throughout the ballet. 

Act II

The second act is more or less as every other Nutcracker.  For every divertissement there is a distinctive backdrop with the given country landscape. The waltz of the flowers is done in its original form, with couples.

At the end, young Clara awakes on her bed.

Again and again, the more experiments I see trying to introduce a professional couple in the Nutcracker from beginning to end, the more I realize there's no point in doing so.  The Nutcracker is definitely a troubled ballet in which the main pdd, and its dancers don't make it to the stage until the very end.  Balanchine doesn't seem to lose sleep over it, and instead of all that Soviet mess of morphing Clara into Sugarplum to make her a dancing role for the entirety of the two acts, he wonderfully creates a highly stylized work with children in act I and great dancing in act II.  More importantly, he REALLY permeates the ballet with magic, as Herr Drosselmayer does. His main balletic backbones here are his Sow Scene and his Waltz of the Flowers, and with only those too there is enough balletic beauty to go and watch the performance.  No need to fill out Clara and the Nutcracker with a million steps all along the ballet.  

Why did I started with the ENB and end up with Balanchine..? Well, who knows.  I guess I have grown to love his production.

 

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13 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

The ballet has a lovely intro, with a showing of the outside of the Silberhaus house and people ice skating. Clara is here not a little girl like Balanchine's, nor an adult ballerina like in Vainonen or Grigorovitch.  She dances throughout the party in demi pointe-(I would love to get a final answer on the issue of the original Clara, S. Belinskaya, dancing on full pointe or demi pointe).

Thanks for the notes -- sometimes it's interesting to think back on a production you saw quite awhile ago, and examine the elements that have really stuck with you, rather than churning through all the material from a performance.

While I'd be curious to know more about the original Clara, I'd hesitate to make many comparisons to current productions -- we have a very different approach to pointe work now, and our assumptions about who does and should dance on pointe are (in many ways thanks to Balanchine) are descended from the past, but don't necessarily mirror those practices.

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13 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

The ballet has a lovely intro, with a showing of the outside of the Silberhaus house and people ice skating. Clara is here not a little girl like Balanchine's, nor an adult ballerina like in Vainonen or Grigorovitch.  She dances throughout the party in demi pointe-(I would love to get a final answer on the issue of the original Clara, S. Belinskaya, dancing on full pointe or demi pointe).

Here's a picture.

original-Nutcracker-ballet-St-petersburg

Looks like demi-pointe slippers to me. 

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They certainly look like contemporary soft shoes, but pointe shoes from this era sometimes look softer than we know them to be today. 

I agree, though, that there's a big difference between productions that keep Clara as a child and those that cast adults in the role.

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