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Which is your favourite version of The Nutcracker and why?


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My sentimental favorite will always be the 1976 Baryshnikov version and I'm so glad it's still available on tape so younger people can see two such exquisite dancers in their prime in several lovely PdD (and that pas de trois in Act II!). (And no kids! Sorry, but that's usually just so much filler to sell tickets to parents and family.)

ABT/Ratmansky: I saw a weekend's worth of this a few years ago at Segerstrom. Loved the bees. But putting in a torch lift that most of the principals can't do decently was sadistic.

NYCB: I know, I know. I've seen this in the theater and on DVD. I do like choreography for various principals - feels distinctively Balanchine. But I'd rather just see those clips than the whole thing.

Colorado Ballet: I have to put in a plug for this version. The Nutcracker and Clara are played by adults, and they get some serious choreography in Act I - a great opportunity for several soloists and promising corps members to shine during the run. Much more interesting than the kids in the NYCB version. The Sugar Plum and Cavalier also have great choreography in Act II. And, as I mentioned before, Asuka Sasaki and Francisco Estevez do a torch lift that outshines anything I saw at ABT/Ratmansky. 

Edited by California
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My favorite version is the NYCB Balanchine version, which is the one I grew up with and have seen the most. The snow scene has always been my favorite part.

I also liked the old Joffrey/Arpino version. 

Least favorite: old McKenzie ABT version

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I fell in love with the Ratmansky Nutcracker from the first time I saw it! I love the opening scene in the kitchen and then opening up to the party scene. So much good acting goes on, it's hard to decide where to look. And I think the snowflake scene going from lovely to sinister is masterful. The young Clara and the Nutcracker prince dancing alongside their adult selves always moves me. I also love the colorful costumes. I'm sad it's left the east coast and keep hoping there might be some way to perform on both coasts at some point.

I feel much the same way California does about the Balanchine version - I'd be happy to see clips, especially Dewdrop. Sorry to be bah humbug, I know legions of ballet goers love this version and always will!

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Definitely Balanchine because of its adherence to the original libretto, it's meaty group dances of acts I and II-( Snow/Flowers)- and its sharpness and quickness-( we know how lethargic some other versions are..).

Sir Peter Wright's for its old charm and its unsurpassed Imperial ballet- generated Grand Pas full in its four sections format.

I despise the Soviet revisionists takes. Vainonen's at MT with its Fee Dragee pseudo Rose Adagio makes me cringe. Same with Grigorovich ludicrous Grand Pas and those darned candelabras...

The whole deal of Masha/Sugarplum as one is horrid.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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I am a fervent devotee of Balanchine's version.

Although I admitted on this forum that I find Mother Ginger's children tiresome, in general I adore the important role that children play in NYCB's Nutcracker. As a child, I looked forward to Christmas day so eagerly and delighted in every moment of it. It really did feel like a day infused with magic. As I've gotten older, I've found Christmas to be more and more like any other day, and it's stressful planning my flight back to my hometown and buying presents for everyone on my list. But when I watch NYCB's Nutcracker and see those kids dancing their little hearts out, I'm transported back to that magical feeling of my childhood. Marina Harss, writing in DanceTabs, hit the nail on the head: "After all, it is a ballet about memory – the memory of family parties, of winter nights, of new friendships, and of the tinge of fear that accompanies childhood." I see ballets about romantic love throughout the rest of the entire year. NYCB's Nutcracker rejoices in being about something entirely different—it is a breath of fresh air.

Furthermore, NYCB's Nutcracker is a coherent story. It makes sense for Clara/ Marie, a child, to be captivated by a doll and dancing alongside other children. Suspension of disbelief is harder when Clara/ Marie is danced by an adult and gazing adoringly at a doll. Worse when her friends are all a foot shorter than her. Balanchine's Nutcracker also knows when to hold back. So many other productions cram in more drama—e.g., a Snow Queen and King or, worse, a romantic pas de deux for Clara and the Prince during the Snow transition scene. This, I have always suspected, is to please filthy casuals audience members who only see one ballet a year and expect swooning pas de deux around every corner.

Balanchine's Snow, Flowers, and Dewdrop choreography are the best in the business, bar none.

The only quibbles I have with Balanchine's Nutcracker are these:

  • the addition of the snippet of Sleeping Beauty music in Act I.
  • the lack of a boisterous group of men in the Russian divertissement—I find the Candy Cane children rather boring.
  • the Chinese divertissement—I envy productions with awesome lion-dance inspired choreography, like SFB.
Edited by mille-feuille
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I'm with the Balanchine fans here, not least because his respects the story, but mostly because I most enjoy dancing when I see what I hear - and Mr. B. gave us more of that than anybody whose choreography I've seen.  I think it's one of his greatest ballets, because you can see right along how he hears Tchaikovsky's instructions. 

Unfortunately, the last time I saw a really good realization of it was in 2011, when Villella's MCB danced it Ft. Lauderdale, just a week after the NYCB broadcast on PBS, which did no one much credit - neither NYCB nor PBS.  (By contrast, the 1993 Warner Brothers video of NYCB is worth having for Kyra Nichols' Dewdrop alone, not to mention Emile Ardolino's excellent directing, which lets us see the performance unusually well.)

A couple of years ago I saw three productions - the new Wheeldon one for the Joffrey Ballet, which was another disappointment for someone who remembers how well Wheeldon heard Ligetti's music in Polyphonia.  (Alastair Macaulay's review in the Times says most of what I think abut that one better than I can.)  But the old Joffrey one - which I thought was by Joffrey himself, although someone here credits Gerald Arpino -  which I saw only in a one-hour version on our local PBS station, frustrated me for looking "deaf" - it told the story, but in movement unaware of most the specific and enlivening guidance Tchaikovsky provides.

And then PNB's new production of the Balanchine choreography, with costumes and other effects, like a projected animation on the curtain to give the audience something mundane to think about - a comic herd of large mice galloping across the yard and up the steps through the open front doors - instead of letting Tchaikovsky transport them to the world of Balanchine's ballet, which subtracted from the potential.  Not to mention some tired-looking principals in a few of the five casts I saw late in the season, though some, like Noelani Pantastico, Lindsi Dec, and their partners, brought their parts to transcendent life.  But listening as I watched, the choreography was always magnificent.  I heard better for watching closely.  You thought they moved according to what they heard.

Back home, the Ballet Chicago production turned out to provide the most satisfaction, even though B.C. is "only" a very good school, with enough top students now not to include guests (although Simone Messmer was welcomed a few years ago, on her way to San Francisco, apparently). 

The Sugar Plum pas de deux is the surviving Balanchine one, a serviceable Cavalier variation having been made by Artistic Director Daniel Duell, and placed as the penultimate number; a lovely, musically aware Snow scene - including a pas de deux adagio to the Pine Forest music - having been choreographed by his partner in running the school and in life, Patricia Blair; and the other numbers also choreographed with musical sensitivity by Duell and also, in the new, dancey Battle scene, partly by Ted Seymour. 

Not only that, the look of the costumes, including the way they move, enhanced the dancing too - I had issues with the other two productions on this point.  And the dancers generally look like they were still exploring how their moves fit the sounds we all heard - naturally for them, students that they are, not so common elsewhere, where the emphasis is more on polish and perfection - B.C.'s dancing often has some of that immediacy I enjoy.

These two, really, are my favorite "Nuts"; they easily displace the two Joffrey ones in my affections.  I do remember positively a Ballet West production, by one of the Christensen brothers, which I saw on television.  Other than that fact, I can't remember much about it, but I mention it because it was on television, and therefor there may be a record of it lurking somewhere.

And then there's Mark Morris's "The Hard Nut".  Usually I enjoy watching how Morris hears, but I can't gt anywhere with this one.  



Edited by Jack Reed
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Mark Morris' The Hard Nut. 

Best Party Scene. Yeah, it's raunchy and everyone (even Marie) behaves badly, but Morris loves these people anyway and forgives them — just as one should in the spirit of the holidays.

Best Snowflakes. I can't help but laugh out loud no matter how many times I see it.

Best choreography to Tchaikovsky's magnificent, ever cresting, never resolving "Journey Through the Snow." Morris uses this music for the Nutcracker Prince's transformation from a toy into young man, via a very tender duet with Drosselmeyer. The Nutcracker becomes fully human the moment the music peaks and it makes me cry every single time. 

No one really knows what to do with Tea, it seems. I don't know why the Land of Sweets divertissements seem inevitably to call forth so many tired ethnic stereotypes and character dance clichés — but Morris is guilty of this, too. They so often seems like paint-by-numbers choreography, as if the dance-makers couldn't imagine any other approach to the music — but which Balanchine actually did with the Candy Canes: there's not a Cossack to be seen in the Trepak. (An aside: I'm delighted to see that the "Kozotsky" i.e., "Cossack" dancing my uncles indulged in when things got rowdy at Christmas and Easter lives on in Hip-Hop.)


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33 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:


So three good chunks of the original are preserved in pristine condition: grand pas, candy cane and prince mime. Quite good, I'd say 

Is Balanchine's version of the grand pas really Petipa/Ivanov's choreography "preserved"? I've always been given to understand that Balanchine either used or made reference to some of the material in the original pas, e.g., the shoulder-sits and the effect of the slide, but that the choreography was in essence his. But I'd be happy to learn otherwise.

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19 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Is Balanchine's version of the grand pas really Petipa/Ivanov's choreography "preserved"? I've always been given to understand that Balanchine either used or made reference to some of the material in the original pas, e.g., the shoulder-sits and the effect of the slide, but that the choreography was in essence his. But I'd be happy to learn otherwise.

No...it is not. I was referencing to Sir Peter Wright's or Alonso's . They both come from direct links to the Imperial Ballet-( Sir Peter Wright's via N. Sergueev/Markova and Alonso having learned it herself from A. Fedorova, an Imperial era dancer). 

Both are pretty much preserved and well passed into the XXI Century. 

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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