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Boston Ballet - 'The Nutcracker'


Nissinen's new Nutcracker dreams


by S.E. Arnold


December 11, 2004 -- The Colonial Theatre, Boston


As breathtaking as a moonlit winter evening, the Boston Ballet’s new "Nutcracker," choreographed by Mikko Nissinen, yet banished winter’s chill and welcomed viewers into its well lit world.


Features traditional to this holiday favorite, such as the 19th century setting of a Christmas party in the Silberhaus household, the characters of Clara, Fritz, Drosselmeier, Mouse King, et al, and the pretext of a young person’s dream still inform Nissinen’s "Nutcracker"; but, its abundance of dancing, humor, and production values driven by a dreamer’s indifference to scale, time, and Newtonian mechanics blend to create a brisker and lighter "Nutcracker."


Liveliness was choreographed into the excitement in, for example, petite allegro, the jumps that signature "Prodigal Son" and "La Sylphide," and the rolling rhythms of entrances and exits that continuously varied or exchanged the number of dancers on stage. Additionally, the studied avoidance of show stopping bravura lifts on moments where the music and tradition seem to solicit them kept the momentum of this "Nutcracker" brisk. This stance toward the music freed, for example,the wind swept snow scene from encumbering drifts.


Yet, the Act II divertissement, such as in Tea, Russian, the Waltz of the Flowers, and the Sugar pas de deux provided 'turn counters’ in the audience opportunities to exercise their want. Always restrained, however, save for the trio of dancers performing Russian, the spectacular a la second or fouette turns performed in Tea or by the Dew Drop Fairy or the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier nevertheless ended before their art became an act.


This choreographic sense of scale and proportion, however, contrasted neatly with the gigantic snowflakes that hung (two of them spinning!) from the flys, or the Christmas tree that grew so large that it consumed the full depth and breadth of the fly space. And, if the colossal size of the tree and snowflakes, for example, reflects the fancy of Clara’s dream, what about the oversize ante-room doors- doors with fixtures so high that even the Governess would have to stretch up to reach them? Practically, one thinks that the scale of the doors and its fixtures meant to reflect the world as seen from a wide-awake young person’s point of view. Imaginatively, however, the size of the door along with Clara’s Alice in Wonderland look alike costume, Drosselmeier’s White Rabbit-like obsession with time (his workshop is a transparent timepiece complete with moving gears), and the sudden disappearance of the whole ante-room, which instantly drew the party scene guests, and the audience, into the Silberhaus parlor, hint that all of this "Nutcracker" is a marvelous dream.


And marvelous too was the young dancer in the Saturday evening performance, who weighted by her mouse costume nevertheless spun in the air on a turn in the music every time with an ease and authority that betrayed her age. In fact, whether it was the youngest of students or an ‘old hand’ in ballet, both the matinee and evening casts shined so bright that only one’s age said that it was night.


Edited by Jeff.


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