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Mark Morris on His Take on the Nutcracker Story
'The Hard Nut' premieres in London -- Sadler's Wells, 12-27 November 2004

by Lyndsey Winship

July-October, 2004 -- London

Mark Morris was in London recently to publicise the London premiere of "The Hard Nut," his take on the Nutcracker story, to be staged in November at Sadler’s Wells as the finale to this year’s Dance Umbrella festival.

Mark and his company’s general director Barry Alterman chatted about the work, originally produced in 1991 while Mark Morris Dance Group were resident at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. "The Hard Nut" is now a regular Christmas fixture in Berkeley, California, with performances in New York and Edinburgh but it’s taken 13 years to reach London. Will it be worth the wait?

Here are a few snippets from the press conference.

On Tchaikovsky:
“Like most people who grew up dancing I was completely anaesthetised from overexposure to this score. You start to think that it’s bad when in fact it’s one of the greatest scores ever written for a ballet.”

On reinterpreting the classics:
“Everybody talks about ‘the traditional Nutcracker’. Well, which ‘the Nutcracker’ are you talking about? As much Ivanov and Petipa is in my Nutcracker as is in anyone else’s, as far as I can tell -- looks like it to me. If everyone did a Don Giovanni that was an exact reconstruction of the very first time it happened, it wouldn’t be around any more, nobody would want to see it. You’re in trouble in opera unless you do a brand new thing. It’s weirdness to me.”

On creating the piece, and revisiting it:
“The theme dance when the Nutcracker theme comes in: we were in the studio and we were just having fun and I just did a little dance -- and that’s it, it’s done. In exactly real time.”

“The party: I started choreographing it by putting on the music and I said here’s the front door, you’re a couple, here’s the tree, bring some presents, go! And we would have a party for 45 minutes a day in rehearsal. And through that it turned into a very, very complicated and strictly modulated path. So when new people come in they have to end up in the same places but they can have entirely different reasons for being there.”

“It doesn’t freak me out that I choreographed that 15 years ago and I’m so humiliated and ashamed, because I’m not. I like it and I think it’s good. I don’t change older work of mine, unless there’s a terrible flaw. Otherwise I feel like I would just keep revising; I would just have one dance that was, like, 25 years long.”

On Belgium:
“I could never ever in a million years have done 'The Hard Nut' in the States. It [working in Brussels] was so profoundly, extravagantly luxurious by American standards.”

Barry Alterman – “There’s a recognition in Europe that culture is vital, that it’s an intrinsic and important part of being human. In Brussels we had unlimited rehearsal time, unlimited production budgets, but we didn’t have an organic connection to the audience. That we were miserable in Belgium is also true.”

Edited by Azlan Ezaddin

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