I know, I know, ‘The Nutcracker’??
With the Tchaikovsky music blasting in every commercial and department store, and with pretty much every ballet company in the U.S. performing their rendition around this time, do we really need to talk about it?
Turns out it’s worth revisiting with a few key ingredients:
- The version you are seeing is George Balanchine’s,’ The Nutcracker’ performed by the dazzling New York City Ballet accompanied by a full, live orchestra in the glorious David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center
2. The audience consists of a packed house of elementary school children from the public schools of New York, most of whom are experiencing live dance for the first time.
It’s fun to re-open the gift of this ballet when experiencing it with someone who has not seen/danced/reviewed in a million times. Also, it’s just a stunning production.
I am currently half-way through a residency with elementary school classroom’s in one of New York City Ballet’s Education Program ‘The Nutcracker Project’. During this residency, I visit their classrooms and we generate a warm-up dance which incorporates ballet and creative movement inspired by The Nutcracker. We also create a collaborative poem and then a group dance for sharing.
We also then invite the students to come to Lincoln Center to see the professional version of the show. If you are like me, and seeing kids delight in the magic of stagecraft, music, and dance feels like the best present you could receive, then this was Xmas/ Hanukah/ Kwanza come early.
I have never been around an audience more excited by every little thing that happened. Did they cheer and collectively roar ‘whoooooooaaaaa!!!!’ when the tree grows to it’s magnificent 41 feet? (yes, it gets that tall) Of course they did!
Were there actual screams of fright on sight of the first rat (who was clearly an extremely professional female, with beautiful legs and feet, in gray tights and a sort of bean-bag shaped mouse body costume)? Oh yes, there were.
Did they go insane for every big lift, every partnered turn, every feat of brilliance? Most of them. They were less-enthusiastic about the highly-technical Sugar Plum pas de deux. I was shocked that the audience went nuts (pun intended) over the Marzipan which is usually the throw-away, challenging, audience non-favorite. I think this one was popular because:
- They could clap along with the music. Have I ever heard anyone clap along with Merlitons/Marzipan before? No. Do I mind at all? Nope.
- Those costumes! The Balanchine Nutcracker has very few classical tutus. Dew Drop doesn’t wear one, even Sugar Plum doesn’t wear one for the first part of Act 2 when she does her variation. The Marzipan look like bouncing cakes, the layer of tool is a thicker shape. Also, they dye their pointe shoes various candy colors. One girl has yellow pointe shoes. Glorious!
- The dancing is truly amazing. The lead has some absolutely killer toe-hops in attitude. I think jumping up and down on candy-colored pointe shoes would impress both the novice and even the snobbiest of judges (who are you lookin’ at?).
This audience reminded me of what it is to experience theater for the first time. They erupted into squeals of delight when the lights dimmed as the performance began, when the curtain rose, at each scene change with a new backdrop. It’s easy when you’ve gone to the theater so many times how magical it is to see a stage transformed into kingdoms of sweets, snowy forests, to see kids and adults telling a story.
To be swept away by a story on stage is to be put right back in that state of childlike wonder, of belief in the magical, the beautiful, the impossible. I fully admit that I still feel this from ‘The Nutcracker’ but being surrounded by actual children’s wonder and delight makes it even better.
Want more Nutcracker Magic?:
- I maintain that I’d be an amazing Mother Butter in my Product-Placement Nutcracker. Especially since the person I originally cast is now a felon.
- I would love to see a New York themed Nutcracker. My Ikea Nutcracker Party Scene Dolls would be great roles to dance! (Or at least costume)
- Wondering what to name your baby? Try one of the 3 Nutcracker names from this list of Hipster Baby Ballerina Names
- Remember when they did Trepak on So You Think You Can Dance? Yeaaaaah. From Russian With Love
I am so honored to be a part of the New York City Ballet Education Department and so thrilled to have experienced the shared gift of The Nutcracker.
I can’t wait to ask them which character the enjyed ost which of the 150 costumes they’d like to try on.
Follow-up to follow. Wow, that was redundant.
Eh, it’s the Nutcracker. If the pointe shoe fits, wear it.