American Ballet Theatre has an online ballet dictionary which I will be referring to in the process of becoming a less-ignorant audience member for future outings.) I was intrigued to learn from the program that Balanchine's deliberately old-fashioned production was in its own way daring in 1954: would the audiences of the avant garde New York City Ballet come to it? The Nutcracker may be a hallowed Christmas tradition now, but has not been from time immemorial. I couldn't help being charmed by it; this may be the artistic equivalent of a sugar rush, but I can't stop smiling and humming things.
Part of my brain, admittedly, was and is begging for the dark heart of the fairy tale: this was nearly all sugary sweetness. The Kingdom of Sweets was pink, for goodness' sake. And as a parent, how would I answer a question about how the dancer sinuously personifying Coffee was (or was not) dressed? "Well, darling, there's a thing called Orientalism..." And I am spoiled by the excellence of the Met orchestra. But, from my novice perspective, the choreography was interesting, especially in the establishment of Klara as a courageous and generous-spirited girl. I've always loved the fact that her Nutcracker is prized above the boring old dolls, and cherished no less fiercely for being damaged. It made total sense that this feisty and independent Klara would throw her slipper at the Mouse King (here a many-headed monster.) Uncle Drosselmeier is still an excitingly ambiguous figure. There is a dance about chocolate. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is still ravishingly romantic. I look forward to experiencing more and more innovative dance, but I am connected to my inner seven-year-old right now and happy about it. So there.
|Before the curtain: orchestras are exciting!|