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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2001 5:25 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 214
Location: Philadelphia, PA
For its first several years, Carolina Ballet traveled a brave route, presenting Robert Weiss's Messiah ballet at Christmas, rather than Nutcracker. But now it appears they too have caved (or perhaps they wanted to do Nutcracker all along and were waiting for more financial backing): <A HREF="http://www.carolinaballet.com/seasontickets/nutcracker.htm" TARGET=_blank>http://www.carolinaballet.com/seasontickets/nutcracker.htm</A> <P>(They are still performing Messiah, but now at Easter.)<P>Here in Philadelphia, we have the holiday alternative of seeing Philadanco's X-Mas Philes performance, choreographed by Daniel Ezralow. Also the St. Petersburg Ice Ballet (is that the right name?) will be performing Sleeping Beauty on Ice at the new performing arts center. But I will still go to Nutcracker.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2001 11:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 457
Location: Jamaica, Queens, New York
LMC Tech, I’m always relieved to hear that somebody—actually anybody—agrees with me. I’m not sure if you agree with my “pro” or my “con” arguments—hopefully with both. In fact, I’d like to make the case that ballet (and therefore life itself) is more interesting if ballet audiences agree and disagree with any single reading.<P>Life is full of contradictions—it is a bowl of cherries with pits and dirt and stuff (excuse the cliché), so art which is ultimately drawn from life is full of tensions and contradictions—some hidden and others not so hidden. In fact, great art not only has internal tensions but in a sense it must have those tensions. If art were univocal, it would be almost unrecognizable as art—it would be degenerate as either parody or juvenilia. This is one of the things that the 2nd generation Marxists were getting at when they discuss “hegemony” and “false consciousness.”<P>Even in “Nutcracker” there are instances of subversion, called “moments of weakness” to the prevailing patriarchal reading. Is “Nutcracker” as rigidly gendered a space as I made it out to be? Isn’t it Clara/Marie who vanquishes the Mouse King and saves the Nutcracker Prince? The Prince might have been the warrior, but exactly how successful were his soldiers and his generalling? To me they look kind of scatter brained, but isn’t that a feminine response to violence? And, what is his reward for the successful campaign—he just sits around Act II with Clara eating sweets, but isn’t that a feminine activity? Is there a sense that by saving the Nutcracker Prince, Clara has also “emasculated” him in balletic terms since he has no further dancing (except in those productions where he dances with the Sugarplum Fairy).<P>The practice of using little girl ballet students in the toy soldiers’ role also seems to subvert the rigid gendering of the “Nutcracker.” Perhaps this is because of the relatively few little boys in ballet schools, but I wonder if this practice would have been so common in “Nutcracker” productions a few generations ago. Or, how about the Sugarplum Fairy’s “friend” in those productions where she doesn’t dance with the Nutcracker Prince. Sugarplum’s friend doesn’t even rate a name—he’s sort of like the Green Man who dances with Titania in Balanchine’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”<P>OK, I’ll stop now. But, I think that just as ballet is such a sophisticated art form that it can express sometimes contradictory emotions simultaneously, great choreography also carries explicit and implicit agendas and motivations and makes for a more artistic experience when we as audience are aware of them.<P>Katydid, I have to tell you that in the years before I got to like ballet, I used to go see Pennsylvania Ballet’s “Nutcracker” every year.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2001 5:08 am 
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
Uh, er, so are you saying you only started to like ballet once you stopped watching their Nutcracker? Image


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2001 6:07 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 191
Location: Iola, Texas
A plus for the Nutcracker would be reduced ticket prices. I noticed that the Houston Ballet reduces the prices of their tickets, probably because there are so many performances. I was able to get box seats for the price I normally pay for side orchestra seating. (At the last ballet we attended, my daughter asked "why can't we sit up there?". "Money, dear." She was thrilled when I told her that for the Nut we would be "sitting up there".)<P>People who would normally purchase tickets for the "nosebleed" section are able to afford orchestra seating. And for others who would turn their nose up at $60 per seat, would not be so quick with the same seats being $40.<P>And with times being what they are this year, a good diversion at a good price is what we need......


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2001 1:36 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
hat's a wonderful point. I never thought of that.<P>Jeff, I agree with both pro and con, being a generally open-minded person. I think you may be reading into that whole soldier thing (but it's fun to do that isn't it?)Soldiers are girls because there aren't enough boys. In any time period, in any school, in any country. However, like I said before, it's fun to speculate.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2001 3:58 pm 
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Just found my way back to this thread, reread DavidH's post and discovered I'd misread it completely the first time. Sorry, David.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2001 4:03 pm 
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Location: California
No problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2001 9:29 am 
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Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: Jamaica, Queens, New York
Maybe I was reading too much in finding a subversive feminist subtext in the casting of little girls as Toy Soldiers, but I guess that what I was getting at is that the experience of ballet doesn’t have to be a passive one for the audience. It’s more than a matter of whether I liked the show or not. There’s a lot to take in—the music, the choreography, the execution, the artistry. Ballets like “Nutcracker” speak to audiences in ways that simpler stories, like fairy tales, do not because “Nutcracker” repeats the ways both overt and hidden forces work in reality. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be recognizable.<P>Here’s a quick example. Though in actuality, the dancers who dance the grown ups of Act I, scene I are a fairly homogenous group (at least in a big company)—young people between 16 and twenty-something in other words—the society they portray is mixed. Most portray young, middle class adults, but some are domestics and some are seniors. If the ballet did not show us class and age difference, at some conscious or subconscious level we’d think….hmmmm…something wrong here.<P>Katydid, how funny. At that time “Nutcracker” was for me like it is to many, my only contact with this art form. I liked it but not enough to see the rep—at that point--I hadn’t learned to really see dance—all I saw were tutus and tiaras and a light evening’s diversion. Also, ahallmark’s point is well taken because I was a starving student at the time, and I used to say, there are cheaper ways to take a nap (I had a hard time staying awake). However, in all fairness to the many small companies out there, there are many “Nutcracker” productions with much more affordable ticket prices and I like them just as much as the big shows put on in the big theaters.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2001 10:05 am 
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
I think people have already touched on this in this thread, but one thing I really like about Nutcracker is the variety you can see from production to production. Having seen the Balanchine production for the past several years, I sort of had it in my head that that was the only "real" way to do Nutcracker. It wasn't until I brought a friend who had never seen his version before that I realized it was missing something. At intermission she said, "Where was the snow queen?" And I thought, "Oh yeah! Where IS the snow queen in <BR>Balanchine's production?" I *like* seeing Act I end with a pas de deux, and sometimes I like it when Arabian's a bit of a contortionist (she's not in Balanchine's version.) So that was a revelation for me. <P>Here is a link to information on American Repertory Ballet's new production of Nutcracker, which premiered in 2000: <A HREF="http://www.arballet.org/ballets/nutcracker.htm" TARGET=_blank>http://www.arballet.org/ballets/nutcracker.htm</A> <P>I could be a snob and say "Children dressed as snowballs? What?" but I suspect I'd like seeing something different if I actually went. Which I might. (and I'll definitely see the Balanchine version at PA Ballet, too. It's tradition!)


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2001 10:51 am 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Jeff, once again I agree with everthing you said. There is a mundane and a thoughtful way to interpret every performance (and really everything in life, I suppose). Isn't that why people love to analyze "Hamlet" so much. There is what is shown on the surface and also what we can scratch down to. I like to subscribe to both lines of thought.<P>My father always had trouble staying awake through my dance performances, until I got older, moved into modern and started doing works he had to think about. Now he stays awake.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2001 7:09 am 
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Location: Scotland.UK
Stuart how can you say Peter Wright's version is best?? didn't you like Sir Anthony's???i thought it was superb!!<BR>i am going down to see the Royal Ballet's Nutcracker , just don't know whether to go for opening night or after Christmas??


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2001 5:49 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:<P><B>The 'Nutcracker' not-so-sweet</B><P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>If we as a people have learned anything in the last two months, it's not to panic in the face of adversity. So, please, remain calm when you read this. <P>The Nutcracker ballet season is back, and although you may already be on high alert and may have had every intention of avoiding it, the probability that you will have to watch a Snowflake or a Sugarplum Fairy twirl in her tutu sometime this holiday season is high.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/11/24/magazine/TANYA24.htm" TARGET=_blank><B>MORE...</B></A><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2001 6:08 am 
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Posts: 290
Location: Ontario, Canada
All grumblings aside, it's a special Nutcracker year for us (read: busier than ususal Nutcracker) and as a parent I'm looking forward to each of the four times I'll see it.<P>My older daughter has roles which are more involved than what she's had previously in her professional school's production. I will miss her first few performances, however, as I have to work. (boo!)<P>My younger daughter will be in a professional production and this is quite exciting indeed. There's not a great amount of dancing on her part, but it's exciting nonetheless. <P>At this point I'm not aware of any significant conflicts in schedule, but not holing my breath....you know how it goes.<P>So, at the end of all this I may not ever want to see another Nut...but for now we are all looking forward to the season.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2001 11:22 am 
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Location: Dallas, TX USA
ill admit that Nutcracker, for me, is one of the less exciting ballets around, but i always have to see it cause its special to me...<P>when i was 6 or 7, i was the little angel that gave the nutcracker back to clara (and gave flowers to the sugar plum fairy at bows) at the Tulsa Ballet production... so i always have to go and do the [simple] moves with this year's angel quietly in my seat. Image<P>it was the greatest thing in the world to me when i was onstage and clara told me i was doing wonderfully. Image


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on the Nutcracker Season 2001
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2001 3:12 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA USA
Yesterday I went to see the PNB version of the Nutcracker. Loved it! The Stowell/Sendak version, with the Tchaikovsky music, of course. Our discussion on this thread reminded me of an interview with Balanchine from a book called "Balanchine's Tchaikovsky". In the particular chapter, Mr. B discusses Christmas, St. Petersburg and the entire mileu in which Tchaikovsy composed what Mr. B. calls "Tchaikovsky's masterpiece"-The Nutcracker. I dont' think anyone will mind if I quote very briefly from this book, because it really pertains to our discussion. Mr. B says "Tchaikovsky remained a child all his life, he felt things like a child....Tchaikovsky loved children as themselves, not as future adults. Children contain maximum possibilities. These possibilities often do not develop, they are lost. The Nutcracker at our theatre if for children young and old. That is, if an adult is a good person, in his heart he is still a child. In every person the best, the most important part is that which remains from childhood." I think Tchaikovsky's love for children (as stated by Mr. B), this sense of wonder during this season, is really what makes Nutcracker such a delight, why it is so timeless, (even when other ballets can sometimes look "dated" to some of us)and why the music so transcendent. That book by the way is "Balanchines' Tchaikovsky", Interviews with George Balanchine, by Simon Volkov. I highly recommend it. It's one of the best books on Mr. B out there; there are quite a few!!<P><p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited November 25, 2001).]


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