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Nutcracker 2018

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This is a review of last night's performance. I buy my Nut tickets way in advance, without knowing the casting. When I find I'm scheduled to see Tiler Peck's Dewdrop, it's like winning the lottery. She did not disappoint her fans last night, turning in yet another dazzling and daring performance. Sara Mearns was a majestic Sugarplum Fairy. She is so beautiful. There is something exotic about her eyes, but when you zoom in, they're sparkling blue and friendly. Truly alluring. Russell Janzen was a perfect Cavalier, attentive and noble. Other standouts were two tall and beautiful flowers, the grand Emilie Gerrity and Miriam Miller. The Nutcracker prince, little Athan Sporek (sp?) has a charisma and poise beyond his years. I gather he's already an accomplished performer, and I can see why. Keep going, little Athan! Sebastian Villarini-Velez made his debut as the Soldier. He was not as "wooden" as others have been, but boy he gives everything his all. Not sure I've seen Devin Alberda do Candy Cane before, but he was terrific. It was great to see all the dancers I'm so familiar with, but also great to see unknown and beaming new faces, apprentices and children. I really go for the first act, the charm of the party scene, and the magic of the violin solo and transformation and battle scenes. Look forward to at least two more performances this season. And would be really glad to read any other reviews!

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27 minutes ago, cobweb said:

This is a review of last night's performance. I buy my Nut tickets way in advance, without knowing the casting. When I find I'm scheduled to see Tiler Peck's Dewdrop, it's like winning the lottery. She did not disappoint her fans last night, turning in yet another dazzling and daring performance. Sara Mearns was a majestic Sugarplum Fairy. She is so beautiful. There is something exotic about her eyes, but when you zoom in, they're sparkling blue and friendly. Truly alluring. Russell Janzen was a perfect Cavalier, attentive and noble. Other standouts were two tall and beautiful flowers, the grand Emilie Gerrity and Miriam Miller. The Nutcracker prince, little Athan Sporek (sp?) has a charisma and poise beyond his years. I gather he's already an accomplished performer, and I can see why. Keep going, little Athan! Sebastian Villarini-Velez made his debut as the Soldier. He was not as "wooden" as others have been, but boy he gives everything his all. Not sure I've seen Devin Alberda do Candy Cane before, but he was terrific. It was great to see all the dancers I'm so familiar with, but also great to see unknown and beaming new faces, apprentices and children. I really go for the first act, the charm of the party scene, and the magic of the violin solo and transformation and battle scenes. Look forward to at least two more performances this season. And would be really glad to read any other reviews!

Thanks for the review. According to Mearns' instagram she almost fell off the slider last night, so it sounds as if Janzen covered for the almost-blooper very well.

 

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It’s true that she appeared unsteady and unbalanced at times during the grand pas de deux. But Sara may be her own worst critic. What this fan remembers was her grandness, majesty, and beauty. 

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One does get the impression from her Instagram posts that she's frequently teetering on the edge of certain failure or disaster. Whether that is all in her head, or if she really is declining in strength and ability is the question. I haven't seen her perform in many years so I can't make that judgment myself, so I'm always interested in reviews from audience members.

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50 minutes ago, Fleurfairy said:

One does get the impression from her Instagram posts that she's frequently teetering on the edge of certain failure or disaster. Whether that is all in her head, or if she really is declining in strength and ability is the question. I haven't seen her perform in many years so I can't make that judgment myself, so I'm always interested in reviews from audience members.

I was shocked at a performance of Diamonds she gave this season, in which she seemed to forget the choreography of her variation and improvise awkwardly. But then a couple weeks later she gave a stunning performance of Concerto DSCH. Judging from her instagram posts it seems as though she has a problem with nerves. She definitely still has the ability.

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7 hours ago, Fleurfairy said:

One does get the impression from her Instagram posts that she's frequently teetering on the edge of certain failure or disaster. 

 

I think of her as a risk-taking, go-for-broke sort of dancer, so I imagine that may contribute a bit to this perceived quality in her (it's also what I find so compelling about her). I didn't catch much of Mearns' dancing before her big injury, but I'd say her ability has remained consistent over the last several years. 

She certainly acknowledges when she's having off nights on Instagram, but I can't recall nerves being a consistent theme in her posts. I was actually surprised to read that she had what sounds like near-debilitating stage fright when it came to performing Nutcracker.  But I remember she said somewhere that she retired Dewdrop because she kept getting injured in it, so I can imagine how a buildup of negative experiences could have led her to that point.

Edited by fondoffouettes

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I think Sara is definitely one of those dancers who enjoys taking us "behind the scenes" in her social media and that includes the downs as well as the ups. She also seems to be intensely self-critical which I actually enjoy because sometimes she points out things that I wouldn't have noticed. 

 

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I was at the "Behind the Magic" session NYCB had this evening. Dancers included India Bradley, Emma von Enck, Roman Mejia, Georgina Pazcoguin, the Angels, and Indiana Woodward and Harrison Ball. I was surprised that Colombine now wears a bright blue dress -- she's always worn a pink dress before. Two SAB students also did a bit of the grand pas de deux before Woodward and Ball did the whole thing. Woodward seemed to get stuck on the slide and therefore didn't slide before balancing, but was overall a lovely SPF. Looking forward to seeing them do this next week.

02_Nutcracker_Manzi-Brown_C33071-15.jpg

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I was at opening night and also the Sara/janzen/tiler performance.  

Opening night was riddled with distracting errors- not sure if this is a reflection of the company at this time, or whether it was a one-off.  1) a party boy’s ballet shoe was half off his foot and flopping around for a good portion of act 1, which i found very distracting as I kept expecting the shoe to come off.  He managed to hike it back on his heel when he was in a cluster of kids; 2) Devin alberda was soldier and as soon as he started his hat fell off backward so the chin strap was almost choking him, he had to rip the hat off and throw it at a parent.  His dancing was great, though (best flexed foot entrechats I’ve seen); 3) Marie dragged her blanket off the couch as she got off it and a mouse had to then pick it up, smh; 4)  whoever was responsible for wheeling out the cannon in the battle scene forgot, so that we had a soldier stuffing an imaginary cannon with powder, then when they finally got the cannon out for the repeat they had too much cheese ammmution bc they didn’t use it the first time (I have never seen this in many years of attending nutcracker performances); 5) the traveling bed almost hit the scenery on its exit into the wings and had to BACK UP (this totally destroyed any remaining magic for me); 6) minor but added to the whole amateur hour atmosphere- Marie’s crown fell off her head at the prince’s first attempt to put it on; 7) an angel almost fell in her face; 😎a polichinelle lost her shoe on her way back into mother ginger’s skirt, and a flower then had to pick it up and throw it into the wings (to applause).   In addition, I didn’t understand why Brittany pollack was opening night dewdrop. She doesn’t have the stage charisma of tiler peck, or bouder, or Tess reichlen.  Smacks of nepotism to me (Stanford being her husband).  Gonzalo Garcia was also very underwhelming in his solo- is he still not 100% recovered?  He looked sloppy and heavy footed throughout.  On the plus side, Georgina pazcoguin was a fantastic coffee, and Danny ulbricht always brings the house down as candy cane (he is the best, bar none, at the double hoop trick).  And shout out to Silas Farley’s mouse king, who has the most elegant chaine turns - amazing in that getup!

At the Sara performance, I was definitely disappointed in her performance.  She very obviously almost fell off the arabesque slide and teetered on it noticeably.   She was not dancing at her usual level for the entire pdd. And I don’t think she pairs well with Janzen, who is too tall for her.  The first leap onto the cavalier’s shoulder was awkward.  Tiler peck was her usual fabulous self, though. The little prince that night was great also- I much preferred him to the opening night prince. I also liked alberda’s elegant candy cane, though he doesn’t have the ease with hoop that ulbricht does (maybe bc he’s taller).  

A final note about columbine’s dress - the old color was much better than the cornflower blue.  Not sure what karinska specified but the blue seems very jarring. 

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10 minutes ago, balanchinette said:

A final note about columbine’s dress - the old color was much better than the cornflower blue.  Not sure what karinska specified but the blue seems very jarring. 

I just checked -- the doll is in blue in the playhouse 90 tv version, and sort of light blue in the 93 film version.

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

I just checked -- the doll is in blue in the playhouse 90 tv version, and sort of light blue in the 93 film version.

That's interesting. In the pic above, I wonder if the tulle had originally been blue but morphed into a sort of mauve color over time. In this video about the Theme costumes, Marc Happel describes blue dyes as being unstable. But if the new costume is cornflower blue, I wonder if they found something to suggest that the original Karinska costumes were a more vivid blue. 

Edited to add: Here's a photo of Karinska's sketch and fabric swatches for the costume, which was included in the 2015 Vanity Fair article about Balanchine's Nutcracker.

ss12-balanchine-nutcracker-ballet-vf.jpg

Edited by fondoffouettes

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On 11/13/2018 at 10:51 PM, fondoffouettes said:

So even if you tweak a gesture here and there, it's still an eroticized fantasy of the Middle East. So how do you "fix" a piece whose very concept may be offensive to some? I guess you just do the best you can, and make compromises.  

You do it...the sexuality is toned down or eliminated, the orientalism is toned down or eliminated...so the exoticism of the makeup and even, at some point, elements of the costume-(too revealing...?).

And then the charm is gone and the variation is unrecognizable.

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11 hours ago, canbelto said:

I was surprised that Colombine now wears a bright blue dress -- she's always worn a pink dress before.

Thanks for the reminder about this. I noticed that at the performance I saw the other night. I thought the vivid blue was charming and in character, matching the vividness of Harlequin's diamond-patterned, multicolored outfit. 

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I saw the Saturday night (12/1) Peck/Gordon Sugar Plum PDD, with Erica Pereira replacing Tess Reichlen as Dew Drop. Reichlen is still listed as performing tonight's Dew and SPF on the 14th, so my fingers are crossed that she is not injured. The other announced casting change was that Emma von Enck replaced Lily Frances Cosgrove as Harlequin in the party scene. As balanchinette mentioned, there were a few mishaps--though they were not quite as egregious as it seems they were opening night! In the battle scene, Marie's shoe missed the mouse king, and while he (Farley) still jumped and pointed at it on the floor, the action was missed by my non-balletgoing friend who was at the Nutcracker for the first time. Besides that, Tenzin Niles and Ines Gout were delightful--I missed Niles' prince last year, but saw his pantomime on the NYT Speaking in Dance feature, and he is just as princely and lyrical as he seems both in last year's video and in this fall's NYT feature on the two princes. 

Tiler Peck's variation at the beginning of Act II was stunning, though (in the second mishap of the evening for the youth cast) an angel fell getting into line at the front of the stage just after she finished dancing. The divertissements had some highs and lows, in my book. I thoroughly enjoyed Meaghan Dutton O'Hara's Hot Chocolate, but found Georgina Pazcougin's Coffee underwhelming. For an indulgent and luxurious piece, she seemed a little rushed and unsure of herself, and her command of the bells/chimes was not as musical as it could be. Both Claire and Emma Von Enck danced in Marzipan, and it was really interesting to see the two side-by-side in a featured role. I particularly enjoyed the evening's lead flowers--Laine Habony and Mary Elizabeth Sell (Habony, from her public facing Instagram, was the flower responsible for rescuing the shoe on opening night as mentioned earlier in the thread)--and they made me forget my disappointment in missing Tess Reichlen's performance. Peck and Gordon were stunning in the PDD--though I'll be interested to see them once they've performed it a few more times, it was the sort of magic you hope to be reminded of when attending the Nutcracker. Gordon--who has been flawless in the solo portions of his roles I've seen this fall--did stumble a bit at the end of a turn sequence, and overall, the pas was not as seamless as some of Peck's work I've seen recently with other partners, but I also had the chance to see her with Joaquin De Luz numerous times this fall, and that is quite the high bar! It seemed like they were both a bit hesitant on the shoulder sits, but their pas still felt pretty close to perfection.

I'm hoping to get tickets to one more performance--I'd love to see the Reichlen SPF and Hyltin Dew, and I'm sorry that I've already seen Pereira's dew as I'd really like to see Hyltin's SPF. 

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According to the casting sheet Reichlen has been replaced tonight with Megan LeCrone.

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High time for Ulbricht to debut in this role. Strike that. Long overdue. 

Any reports on the two new Soldier debuts welcome - tonight Kennard Henson, tomorrow Andres Zuniga. 

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30 minutes ago, cobweb said:

High time for Ulbricht to debut in this role. Strike that. Long overdue. 

Any reports on the two new Soldier debuts welcome - tonight Kennard Henson, tomorrow Andres Zuniga. 

I'm so glad to Ulbricht is doing this. It's a shame it's coming so late in his career. I always felt that Peter Martins under utilized him. It took years for Martins to cast him as Oberon, but he excelled in it. From social media I know that Ulbricht has recently guested with Sarah Lane, doing Cavalier.

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1 hour ago, vipa said:

I'm so glad to Ulbricht is doing this. It's a shame it's coming so late in his career. I always felt that Peter Martins under utilized him. It took years for Martins to cast him as Oberon, but he excelled in it. From social media I know that Ulbricht has recently guested with Sarah Lane, doing Cavalier.

Great news! I agree that Ulbricht has been underused. There are some fairly petite ballerinas that he should be an appropriate height to partner. 

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2 hours ago, cobweb said:

High time for Ulbricht to debut in this role. Strike that. Long overdue. 

Any reports on the two new Soldier debuts welcome - tonight Kennard Henson, tomorrow Andres Zuniga. 

Henson was good - not as whiz-bang as some but he was secure and got a nice applause. 

As far as the rest of the performance tonight:

Lecrone indeed subbed in as Dewdrop for Reichlen. Lecrone was technically very good  but the real joy and exuberance Dewdrop should have was absent from her face. 

My eyes were drawn to Miriam Miller as Lead Flower. What a gorgeous presence she has. 

Alec Knight was an absolutely hilarious Mother Ginger. The audience loved him. 

Ulbricht was fantastic in Candy Cane as usual. 

I was very impressed with Woodward as Marzipan. She has a lovely quality.

What more can be said about Tiler? She was pure perfection as Sugar Plum. The fish dive at the end got a huge roar. Gordon seemed very secure in his partnering. Not one teeter the whole Pas de deux. 

Edited by Fleurfairy

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For those keeping track of Alastair Macaulay's lament that they do not do the full stop before the backbend, tonight Joseph Gordon definitely did a full stop when Tiler did the backbend before he turned her around in the promenade.

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Casting is up through Dec 23.  Daniel Ulbricht is finally  debuting as Cavalier.  The other big debut that week is Olivia MacKinnon as Dewdrop.

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On 12/3/2018 at 11:44 PM, fondoffouettes said:

That's interesting. In the pic above, I wonder if the tulle had originally been blue but morphed into a sort of mauve color over time. In this video about the Theme costumes, Marc Happel describes blue dyes as being unstable. But if the new costume is cornflower blue, I wonder if they found something to suggest that the original Karinska costumes were a more vivid blue. 

Edited to add: Here's a photo of Karinska's sketch and fabric swatches for the costume, which was included in the 2015 Vanity Fair article about Balanchine's Nutcracker.

ss12-balanchine-nutcracker-ballet-vf.jpg

According to a recent series of posts on the company’s Instagram, the 2018 blue is much closer to the original Karinska design: 

 

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Thanks for posting these pictures Tutu. I like the new- Columbine costume. I think it goes much better with the Harlequin costume than the previous one. 

Edited by FPF
Correction

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I saw last night's performance. Sterling Hyltin's SPF was exquisite. Andrew Veyette looked in much better shape than he has in a long time, and his partnering was excellent. He lifted her so high in that big carrying lift that the audience burst into applause. Other highlights included Anthony Huxley's Candy Cane, Lauren King's Marzipan and Spartak Hoxha's Soldier. Preston Chamblee's Mother Ginger was not as funny as Alec Knight's, and Megan LeCrone needs to retire Coffee. She looked like she was sleepwalking through the role. In fact, I think the whole role of Coffee needs coaching. It's been a long time since I've seen a Coffee that was actually sexy.

Edited by canbelto

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