Nutcracker in New York – Dancing Occasions

Posted on January 13, 2022

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Above: Indiana Woodward in New York Metropolis Ballet’s manufacturing of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photograph by Erin Baiano.

Relaying information from New York within the January problem of Dancing Occasions, Leigh Witchel wrote that “New York Metropolis Ballet has performed the identical model of The Nutcracker since 1954,” however as a result of “there have been no main debuts throughout opening week,” there was “nothing to report” about it. Because it occurred, that outdated manufacturing made headlines this yr, with good purpose.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is as a lot part of Christmas in New York as Rockefeller Middle’s towering Christmas tree, which was first erected in 1933 as “a vacation beacon for New Yorkers and guests alike.” Largely unchanged however for brand spanking new décor and lighting designed by Rouben Ter-Arutunian in 1964, Balanchine’s manufacturing includes greater than 100 kids, not as window dressing however as dancers who painting kids, mice, toy troopers, angels, sweet canes and polichinelles, the inhabitants of Mom Ginger’s capacious skirt.

In 2020, to the dismay of hundreds, the coronavirus successfully cancelled the annual return of this favorite, which had by no means missed a Christmas look in its lengthy historical past. Decided to forestall one other cancellation this yr, the corporate needed to overcome a raft of issues. To begin with, younger kids weren’t being vaccinated towards COVID-19 when rehearsals started within the autumn, so the 12-year-olds who had at all times been deemed too outdated for the youngsters’s roles grew to become the youngest performers allowed to bounce them.

Images: 1-2 – The Celebration Scene in New York Metropolis Ballet’s The Nutcracker. 3 – Waltz of the Flowers. Images by Erin Baiano.

The peak requirement modified too. With a purpose to swimsuit each the characters and the costumes, kids couldn’t ordinarily be solid in the event that they had been taller than about 5 foot one inch in peak. Now, filling the numerous roles took priority over filling the prevailing costumes, so youngsters had been chosen, some as tall as 5 foot seven inches. Although the youngsters historically come from the Faculty of American Ballet, auditions this yr, for the primary time, prolonged to 6 different skilled coaching colleges in Manhattan, together with these affiliated with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispánico and Dance Theatre of Harlem. 

To place a secure restrict on the numbers of individuals, the conventional troupe of 126 kids shrank to 74, divided into two casts with most individuals enjoying two roles. To decorate everybody, practically 130 new costumes needed to be constructed from scratch – the price range ultimately reached about $375,000. The brand new outfits had been naturally bigger than these they changed as a result of they needed to match older kids; the replacements had been additionally constructed to be simply adjusted for future casts of assorted sizes.  

This Nutcracker wasn’t the one vacation present on the town, and even the one Nutcracker. For younger kids, New York Theatre Ballet introduced a small solid in a one-hour staging to recorded music. The Brooklyn Nutcracker featured a popping and locking Drosselmeyer and a hip hop battle, and Firm XIV’s subtle model embraced parts of burlesque, circus and drag. 

Images: 1 – Indiana Woodward and Anthony Huxley in Act II of New York Metropolis Ballet’s The Nutcracker. 2 – Megan Fairchild and Firm in Waltz of the Flowers. 3 – Roman Mejia within the Sweet Cane dance. Images by Erin Baiano.

But the color, enjoyable, thriller and classical dancing in Balanchine’s interpretation nonetheless weave irresistible magic, and the nearly-full home welcomed the efficiency I attended with cheers. In it, I found Emma Von Enck, a corps de ballet member who led the divertissement for Marzipan Shepherdesses with allure and musicality that may absolutely win her extra vital roles.

Having struck up a dialog throughout the interval, a younger man instructed me as we left our seats that he knew the music properly however had by no means seen any dancing set to it. “I’ll come again,” he mentioned. “Now I wish to see one thing else.” Isn’t that what each firm hopes to listen to? 

PS. It was nice whereas it lasted. After I left New York in mid-December, the virus compelled New York Metropolis Ballet to cancel 17 performances of The Nutcracker. On January 7 the corporate introduced a nine-day delay to the opening of its winter season and a slight change in its repertoire. Robust occasions nonetheless lie forward.


Barbara Newman

Barbara Newman’s books about ballet embody Grace below Stress; The Illustrated Guide of Ballet Tales for kids; a quantity of interviews, Hanging a Stability, and its follow-up, By no means Removed from Dancing. She has written for Dancing Occasions since 1984 and served because the dance critic for Nation Life from 1990 to 2016. She archives all her work at http://barbaranewmandance.web