December 21st, 2007

Oh, why not?

Why not take a break from politics and world angst? You’ve got a good excuse, because it’s that time of year again—”Nutcracker” time, that is.

Especially if you live anywhere near New York City, where the New York City Ballet has danced its 2000th performance of (excuse the pun) the old chestnut. If you have little children, especially girls, there is hardly a greater holiday treat than to take them to a performance (dressed in holiday finery, of course) and watch their faces light up.

At least, that was true for this little girl, who was enchanted by the ballet back when the troupe had danced only a couple of hundred performances, and when Balanchine himself took to the stage as an especially spooky Herr Drosselmeier. Even as a child I appreciated choreography and stage business, as well as scenery, and “Nutcracker” was loaded with more than its share.

I know, I know—corny, sentimental tripe, you say. But just the music alone is worth the price of admission. Yes, it’s been done to death, especially as the excerpted “Nutcracker Suite” (which is often misunderstood as “Nutcracker Sweet”). And it can be cloying if not performed well, but the New York City Ballet always performs it well, and regional companies usually make up in enthusiasm what they lack in technique.

It’s the children on stage as well as the children in the audience; their excitement at being part of the magic of a real performance is contagious. So swallow your cynicism, stifle your yawns, click here and watch some of the festivities (taking in an all-too-brief sample of the celestial music that accompanies the Grand Pas de Deux) and then take a child to the Nutcracker. Tell them neo sent you.

9 Responses to “Oh, why not?”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I use to really enjoy New York at Christmas time. We went almost every year up until 2001. We walked 5th Avenue and enjoyed the stores and displays mostly. We never did one of the Christmas shows like the Nutcracker Suite. But after reading your post you’ve inspired me to shoot for a New York Christmas show next year.

    Thanks.

  2. Bugs Says:

    I’m sorry – is this post about the ballet or the Hillary Clinton toy?

  3. Tatyana Says:

    Americans treat Nutcracker as a lightweight fairy tale. Yes, it is a make-belief story, but more like a fable, and rather dark one at that. Once I read original Hoffmann (sp?) novella, the story was transformed in my mind. Chaikovsky indeed dumbed it down for his ballet, but not as much as subsequent choreographers in US. The directorial tradition on Russia is much closer to the original tragic tale in German.
    I remember seeing in incredibly ethereal, magic stage design in L’vov Opera &Ballet theater, sometime in 1990…still remember that lilac and frosty ice-blue of the curtains, and the floating candlelights in the darkness of intermission…
    Even the old animated film is more…I don’t know…sincere? “in-the-story”?earnest? truly romantic? than the syrupy concoction I saw in Lincoln Center 5 yrs ago. That was quite embarrassing.

    Here, part I.
    Enjoy.

  4. Tatyana Says:

    Part II. – skipped it somehow.

  5. AmericanWoman Says:

    My husband and I went to see the Nutcracker last Christmas at the Atlanta Ballet. He had never been to a ballet before. We did a matinee performance at the old Fox Theater.

    There were plenty of little girls there, and I had as much pleasure out of watching them enjoy the performance as I did watching it myself. It brought me back to my girlhood.

    My husband did enjoy it. Nutcracker is a lively entertaining ballet, full of silly characters (in this version there was a pig character that almost stole the show). Despite one very little girl’s meltdown tantrum in the second act, it was the most fun I’ve had at the ballet.

  6. mrs whatsit Says:

    When my daughter was three, she wore out a videotape of the 1977 Gelsey Kirkland/Baryshnikov version watching it over and over and over again. Now she is 21, has recently acquired a DVD of the same production, and has begun working on wearing that one out. She says she isn’t sure why the story had such power over her young self, but I agree with Tatyana that there is a certain darkness in the story, and I think that is part of the appeal.

  7. C. Siegel Says:

    I always loved the stagecraft. The North Carolina School of the Arts always used to do a production that was an absolute confection. Perfect convergence of all elements.

  8. biff Says:

    Smile, one year my daughter played Clair (I think) and as her real father I played her father in the production. I even had a little dance. We still go every year, although there have been many Clairs I have yet to see my equal as dad.
    Merry Christmas to all
    Biff

  9. AmericanWoman Says:

    It’s Clara :)

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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