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 Post subject: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2001 4:55 pm 
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Here we go. 'Tis the season again:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Walnut Hill Stages The Nutcracker<BR>Two Decades of the Acclaimed Production<P>NATICK, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 8, 2001--Walnut Hill School, the nation's only conservatory and academic high school, announced today that its acclaimed annual production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, now in its 20th season, will take place on campus December 5th through December 15th in the Keiter Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $24/$18 and may be purchased by calling the Walnut Hill box office at (508) 650-5025.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/011108/82368_1.html target=_blank>More</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2001 5:32 pm 
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I vote that this season we focus on the more positive aspects of The Nutcracker(don't even think about throwing rotten eggs at me -haha.) <P>Discussing it endlessly in a negative way is so tiresome (and generally what 'they' do over at 'that board') <P>There are some unusual and clever productions of it world wide (John Neumier in Hamburg, Mark Morris Hard Nut) and some really beautiful one's here in the US. I'm a particular fan of the Sendak/Stowell production at PNB. <P>Anyone care to support me? <BR>xo<BR>D


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2001 7:01 pm 
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I support you DavidH - and to prove that I just sent off my check for tickets for ABT's Nutcracker for <u>December 2002</u>.<P>I don't see anything negative in Nutcracker. I can still get misty eyed when in the darkened room the Christmas tree grows and grows and grows to that truly magical music.<P>And if this is a good way for companies to earn money, and for children and families to spend an afternoon or evening and perhaps begin a love affair with ballet, more to the good.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2001 7:47 pm 
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There's a time and place for everything. The reason why Nutcracker is so endlessly discussed on "that" board is because said board is frequented by young dancers who are in the right time and place in their lives for Nutcracker. It would be small-minded to be critical of such rites-of-passage.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2001 8:24 pm 
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FYI-<BR>That's not what I was implying at all. Having taught for a very long time I wouldn't deny young dancers that privilege - ever! <P>Typically on Dance websites at this time of year it's more normal to bash the old cracker then speak of it's merits. <P>D


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2001 10:38 am 
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Well, I have to say it is not one of my favorites and everytime I hear that darn Chinese music I get nervous and start to shake and sweat (my stagefright coming up). <BR>However, it is a truly magical ballet for countless thousands of children and their parents. It is an American institution. And it just wouldn't be Christmas without it.<P>It also can be transformed like Shakespeare can. You can successfully place it in any time period and just about any culture and it still has magic and light. I think that means it's universal in someway.<p>[This message has been edited by LMCtech (edited November 09, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2001 11:55 am 
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I agree with you on this one, David and Basheva. I never tire of it at all. I hope to make a quick stop in San Francisco this December just to see the Christensen production again. And I'm pleased that others also enjoy the Sendak/Stowell version.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2001 7:23 pm 
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Hello All,<P>Any worries at all about declines in ticket sales for Nutcrackers this year. I have heard rumors of many declines, even down to a tenth of the sales over last years Nutcracker. Considering that Nutcracker sells the most and adds the most to a companies budget, I would be freaking out if I were in management. Just a thought though.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2001 9:52 pm 
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David H, thanks for starting this thread. I’m interested in it because it takes up a question I get every year. Though I can understand that sitting through anything for the nth time can make the whole thing pall a bit, I’d like to make a “pro” “Nutcracker” case starting with Basheva’s observation about “Giselle”:<P>“"Ah, Giselle", is not so much a lament for Giselle, as a lament for those of us who berate it. The pseudo sophisticate who decries the music, the story, the theme....and yet, turns up time and again to witness its power. Lamented or praised one cannot deny its power, it has lasted beyond its original time and place.”<P>First, let’s not kid ourselves. Nobody goes to see “Nutcracker” because of the story. Though the ballet is not bare of narrative interest—which I will touch on in a sec—the raison d’etre of “Nutcracker” is really in its formal features—in other words, “Nutcracker” is a fine platform for dance. For a small company or ballet academy, “Nutcracker” is an excellent showcase for its students enabling them to look good while getting some valuable performing experience. For a big company, the word you want is “star vehicle.” This is no mistake because among the many qualities that ballets excels, the lightness and charm, the surface of sheer beauty is clearest in the dance of the Snowflakes, the Waltz of the Flowers, and the bravura of the Sugarplum Fairy’s pas de deux. Another quality that balletic technique is particularly good at is pure glamour—this is the Sugarplum Fairy’s forte. When she gets out there with her bright tutu, gems sparkling on her tunic and tiara and moves with almost superhuman command and precision, the audience can’t not watch her—I’m talking Tina Leblanc, YY Tan, Lorena Feijoo, Wendy Whelan, and other spectacular ballerinas I have seen.<P>Kurt Weill, I think, said about Shakespeare what it also true about “Nutcracker,” which is that its iconic stature makes it an ideal hostage to ideology. Robert Joffrey, for example, conceived of an “American Nutcracker” expressed in allusions to the vintage Americana of Currier and Ives. Baryshnikov choreographed his “Nutcracker” with a more psychological angle. I’ll quote Balanchine quoting Alan M. Kriegsman: “while a child’s Christmas dream is the basis for this version of the ballet, here “the child is older—a girl on the verge of adolescence—and the dream branches out to become, not just wish-fulfillment of a candy kingdom, but an envisagement of mature love, incarnate in the Nutcracker Prince."” The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s version also uses the psychological angle showing a sort of struggle for sexual dominance between the Nutcracker Prince and the Pasha (the character roughly corresponding to Drosselmey). I haven’t seen this version (yet), but I like the video—Patricia Barker as the Clara ready for love looks stunning.<P>No doubt there are dance history and theory graduate students writing theses on these very subjects in vastly more detail and depth, but nothing prevents me taking a stab at formalist analysis, too. In fact, I’d suggest that it is the ballet’s formal features that account for its popularity: there is something there for everybody. “Nutcracker’s” choreography touches upon so much that is essential to the way audiences respond to and enjoy dance. For example, Act I, scene I (the Stahlbaum’s party) gives an important message about dance’s social dimension. People dancing together represents order and social stability. The children dance—oftentimes Marie and her friends with their dolls, but mischievous boys intrude; but, they are chased away by the adults and dance and order is reinstated. Then, the adults dance together in a self important, but enjoyable manner, indicating that for adults, too, dance restates the ideal of social stability and harmony. Their steps are not ballet, but are taken from the social dance idiom—that of the courante, the galliard, etc; and, this is appropriate because this choreography is about dance ordering society. <P>The second “message” of this Act I, scene I is about how dance has the potential to remake things, to give life anew. This comes from the dance of Drosselmeyer’s “toys”—usually a Columbine and a Pierrot/soldier doll. Yet, just as dance changes dolls of paint and wood into magical creatures, similarly does balletic technique change young boys and girls into performers worth watching. Moreover, this transformation, balletic alchemy, is not done in steps from social dance, but with technique with an eyes towards the purity of the dans d’Ecole. Again, “Nutcracker” shows us why ballet is important. <P>Since I got interested in dance a few years back, I have seen many productions both big and small and every season I look forward to more. Naturally, a big company bursting to the seams with talented and ambitious dancers, like San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet, is going to put on a spectacular production that leaves one breathless. But, even small semi-professional productions are a pleasure to watch. Yes, there’s very little that compares to seeing a well rehearsed, highly professional corps dancing the Snowflakes or Flowers—their technique is very pure and light, their lines and forms are beautiful like fine paintings. But even if lacking quite the uniformity of technique and line compared to a big company, the girls from an upper division of a local school still look pretty good. Perhaps there might be only two Marzipans compared to New York City Ballet’s five (I think) and perhaps they don’t move with the gazelle-like speed and doe-like lightness of New York City Ballet’s dancers, but they do dance with the lightness and charm that is intrinsic to the steps and that repeats in no small way ballet’s magic.<P>I certainly hope that "Nutcracker" revenues aren't going to be down so much. The times became unpredictable in September, but it is precisely those times you need the kind of reassurance that comes the ritual and repetition of art.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2001 6:16 am 
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Well done, Jeff! As usual a very perceptive and well forumulated view - and most enjoyable to read. <P>For me, Nutcracker is really quite simple - the music enables a dream. That sweeping Tchaikovsky music. Some of the best music written for dance, in my opinion. It never pales for me. I simply can't NOT respond to the Waltz of the Flowers, or the light, sweet stickiness of Sugar Plum.<P>I also think that Nutcracker represents a total dream - not just Clara/Maria's dream. The first act is the dream we all have as children and even as adults. A dream of a family, friends, celebration, all coming together to enjoy one another, with dance, music, gifts, food. It encompasses the full capacity for human enjoyment. A warm home and a safe family.<P>And, the merest undertone of threat, which is also beneath all happiness. Happiness is never total. Human beings always question happiness, and doubt its completeness.<P>Then this progresses to the dream of other possibilities; the conquest of evil which enables the dream to continue into the realm of fantasy - a venture into another kingdom - acceptance into that kingdom and the first glimpse of mature love. <P>It's what dreams are made of - and the music sweeps us into it, enabling the desire to attain virtuality.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2001 7:09 am 
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My main complaint is that 'The Nutcracker' accounts for such a large percentage of ballet performances in a year. However, I have to say that Sir Peter Wright's revised Royal Ballet production has much to commend it. I'm also looking forward to the revival of seeing Adventures in Motion Pictures modern dance version.<P>But do spare a thought for the dancers of English National Ballet - 40 odd performances of 'The Nutcracker' in 1 month including daily matinee and evening performances for a 3-week period EVERY YEAR. Cruelty to dancers or what! <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:33 am 
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Well, that's why most dancers hate it. You do it every year. You get a new production every ten-fifteen years (so the costumes stink and are falling apart). You have to deal with multitudes of screaming abnoxious children. And you've probably been doing this since you were one of those screaming obnoxious children, so its a little boring.<P>However, from the point of view of the audience, it's a gem. As someone who sees it every year multiple times because of my job, I can really guage what is going on in the corps based on who is getting which solo roles. This is a ballet that offers a lot of solo opportunities for corps de ballet, because there are so many roles and so many performances. That is exciting. Seeing a young dancer doing their first "Doll" or "Butterfly" is truly rewarding. I also like to see as many different casts as possible.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2001 7:12 am 
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Having made the case to enjoy “Nutcracker” for the nth time, let’s say we got “Grinched” anyway. “Nutcracker” is hardly my favorite ballet and I’m not blind.<P>Notwithstanding my recent, “pro” “Nutcracker” post, I’d like to suggest that this seasonal warhorse does in fact have serious flaws. Number one, as Stuart says, to the popular imagination “Nutcracker” represents the world of ballet in far excess proportion compared to the many other great works in the repertory. Ballet is so much more than juvenile sweetness and light—tutus and tiaras: I’m thinking “The Cage,” “Bugaku,” “L’Arlesienne” to take some recent examples from San Francisco Ballet’s rep, ballets that pull on the audience with strong, dark undercurrents. Yes, as Basheva has so insightfully pointed out there are moments of tension that threaten the domestic world of the Stahlbaums, but in the main the “Nutcracker” world is a happy world. Yet, which version of life is closer to “real life”—the endless bourgeois happiness of the Stahlbaums or the will-to-destroy of the Novice?<P>Though “Nutcracker” is in the main harmless, it isn’t quite “PC.” This is most obvious in the way it shows, almost celebrates, a rigidly gendered space. Little girls with ribbons and bows are expected to play with dolls while little boys in pin-on bow ties run amuck with toy swords and guns. It’s like that nursery rhyme, “sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of…” (hope I got that right). The female grown ups’ vintage style dresses recall that awful Victorian style with the corsets that bound women, repeating in physical terms their political and social situation. Act II even can be criticized for the almost fetishist attention to female bodies and apparel—what sort of feminine role is defined when the Peacock is brought out in her cage to dance in the Stowell/Sendak version?<P>For those who like “post-colonialist” approaches, Arabian Chocolate and Chinese Tea are like the appropriations of imperialism in miniature. They provide no attempt at real oriental culture being content to reinforce occidental stereotypes of the sexy, sultry odalisque and the nervous, bucktoothed smiling “Chinese” male. LMCTech, I’m with you there—that music makes me nervous, too.<P>I realize that for many, “Nutcracker” represents their only contact with ballet and much happiness and not a few performing careers will come from this contact, but I can only hope (as does every AD and company manager) that some who like what they see in December like it enough to come back in the spring for the rep season.<P>I’m sympathetic with the dancers who are condemned by popular taste and revenue pressures to a lifetime of December “Nutcrackers.” American Ballet Theater came to Orange County during a recent holiday season with “Cinderella,” which I thought was a clever holiday choice. Those in the Bay Area at least have some options--Mark Morris’s version and Smuin’s holiday ballet. Donald Byrd/the Group brought a “Harlem Nutcracker” to L.A. before, but it isn’t advertised this year and ABT is bringing “Nutcracker” to the Kodak Theater. The world of drama knows to cash in on “A Christmas Carol,” but they also provide much needed alternatives, such as a musical “Grinch,” “An O. Henry Christmas,” “La Posada Magica” etc. Who knows, maybe some company will revive “Puppenfee”?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2001 8:21 am 
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Hmmm...much food for thought, Jeff. Maybe theater is fortunate that it has developed several different stories appropriate to the season, while ballet has basically the one specifically Christmas story, the Nutcracker.<P>It would certainly be a wonderful addition for dance to develop more stories for this season. I surely would applaud that effort.<P>As for judging Nutcracker along the lines of "PC", if we impose that standard, the standard of our day (which again I applaud, I am an early worker for equal rights), then we would have to similarly condemn many ballets. Swan Lake, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, La Fille Mal Gardée, La Sylphide, Giselle, come quickly to mind. All reinforce gender stereotype and morés incompatible with our times.<P>Likewise, there is much of literature which would have to be discarded or disavowed. <P>As for me, I take it as it was written, acknowledging and applauding any improvements we have managed since then, and just enjoy it.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2001 1:23 pm 
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I agree with everything you said, Jeff.<P>However I will not deny the fact that it is part of the holiday celebration for many families, and I think that is wonderful.


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