THE DYNAMIC DUO ON PNB’s American Stories

the dynamic duo ballet pnb

This is the first review for the Dynamic Duo and they knock it out of the park. It is like having a conversation with your friends after a ballet performance… but better… because by day they are kick butt engineers for Boeing… and by night they are former ballerinas, turned balletomanes, turned ballet reviewers. Personally, I want to thank them for joining  a Ballet Education, basically for free… It is a lot of work to review a ballet performance… not to mention have me as your editor… So, here they take on Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s 6/12/2016 performance of American Stories.

By: Colette Posse and Susie Boyland (pictured below L to R)

dynamic duo dance review

By: Colette Posse and Susie Boyland

The first of three pieces was Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, which portrays three sailors on shore leave during WWII in NYC as they interact with each other and flirt with passing women. 

Colette: American Stories was such a fun production to watch!

Susie: Having only vague memories of seeing Fancy Free years ago by a company I don’t remember, I was very much looking forward to seeing it again. Pacific Northwest Ballet did not disappoint!

Colette: Agreed! Seth Orza, Jonathan Porretta, and James Moore were fantastic actors and were just hilarious playing off of each other. I loved the attention to detail in their acting as well—like shaking hands behind their backs (toward the audience) when two of them would play a prank on the third. I didn’t know how you could get so much story telling out of such a simple plot setup—essentially just some guys and gals in a bar—but Robbins kept us entertained. Whether it was trying to impress the girls, competing with each other, or just messing around, there’s plenty of story throughout the piece. Jonathan Porretta was especially great in his solo with both his amazing jumps and funny demeanor.

Susie: Porretta’s solo was my favorite of the three, but overall PNB’s casting of the sailors was excellent. Coupled with their outstanding technique and bravado, they played their characters the way that they were meant to be played. Fancy Free is humorous, and these three gentlemen succeeded in making the audience laugh frequently.

Colette: Though the women were not as featured, Noelani Pantastico stood out and really knew how to use body language and facial expressions to tell a story.

Susie: Her name always makes me think of the word “fantastic” and deservedly so!  Noelani matched both the acting abilities and technical proficiency of the men. The three sailors fought for her attention, teasing her by tossing her purse around; though that scene with three men tossing a woman’s purse around on a dark city street while she tries desperately to retrieve it did make me slightly uncomfortable. Sarah Ricard Orza joined Noelani partway through and is one of my favorite PNB dancers. She seems to be underrated but I find her to be a more compelling performer than many of the company’s principal dancers. I am always glad to see her in featured roles!  Her lines are beautiful, her acting is great, and she is always a joy to watch. Near the end, we got to see Elle Macy display her acting abilities as well. Her part in the ballet was short, but she exuded sensuality, causing the men to “ooh” and “ah” over her resulting in a comical end to the piece.

pnb performance american stories review

The second piece in the show, George Balanchine’s Square Dance, was a piece inspired by several types of partnering dances, including its namesake.

Colette: Despite its title, Square Dance was still quite classical both musically and choreographically. I’m a big Vivaldi fan, so this worked for me ☺

Susie: Haha, I am NOT a Vivaldi fan, but thankfully the beautiful dancing distracted me from the music!  I was a bit confused at first as to why a ballet set to music by Vivaldi and Corelli and danced in leotards, skirts, and pointe shoes was called Square Dance, but it soon became clearer: it was a ballet slightly influenced by square dancing even though there was no literal square dancing involved.  Kyle Davis was generally the “caller” who would perform a step and then the group of dancers behind him would repeat that step. Leta Biasucci often took on this role too.

Colette: Ah I see what you’re saying. I liked that this was a high-energy piece with a TON of petit allegro—props to the dancers for making it through this, let alone making it look easy. The clear standout here was Leta Biasucci. Everything she did was just ON POINT (or should I say en pointe?). She was crisp, clean, and made her steps look huge despite her small stature. Balanchine would be proud!

Susie: Nice pun ☺ I doubt there is anyone in frequent attendance of PNB’s performances who doesn’t know that Leta Biasucci is a rising star. Her technique is incredibly polished and I didn’t see any errors on her part throughout the entire piece. Her upper body is always calm and poised while her lower body is crisp and faultless; i.e. exactly what my ballet teachers always wanted from us. She’s not the typical PNB dancer, i.e. tall women with legs for days, but that contrast she provides against the others makes her stand out in a positive light. When watching Leta, I never doubt that she is going to successfully complete a turn, while the same cannot be said for most of the company. Sometimes there are even principal dancers at PNB who will fall out of a double pirouette. For the record, I love PNB’s principal dancers, but just because they have attained the highest rank doesn’t necessarily mean that they are necessarily the best dancers in the company.

Colette: Definitely.  I also like that PNB has diversity in terms of skills; I can see that each dancer has his/her specialties and that really works to the company’s advantage in attaining a varied repertoire. That keeps gems like Leta from being overlooked!

pacfic northwest ballet building

Waiting at the Station portrays a man as he attempts to connect with his son and pass on his steps before he must surrender to the three gilded Fates that seek him out.

Colette: Waiting at the Station was probably my favorite piece of the night. Based on the description alone I thought it’d be identical to Fancy Free, but boy was I wrong! Every aspect of this piece was so well-done. The 1940s jazz music and the dynamic choreography were so fun I wanted to get up and dance it myself. Twyla Tharp put an excellent jazzy spin on ballet here. The ensemble constantly dancing in the background made the piece feel like it was moving at a fast pace while the various stories unfolded downstage. The vignettes were even more numerous here than in Fancy Free—I had to pay close attention to all parts of the stage to catch everything that was going on!

Susie: I’m glad you were able to somewhat figure out what was going on because I had no idea until afterwards!  Based on the title of this ballet I was confused at first when the set didn’t look all that station-like, except for perhaps the clock in the corner, but I stopped caring about that too much shortly after that thought passed through my mind because this ballet was fun and highly enjoyable. In retrospect, I suppose the “station” was a metaphor for the end of life. I probably should’ve done a better job reading the program before this ballet started – oops.

Colette: I don’t blame you; I only understood because I had glanced at the program first. I liked the life metaphors though. In addition, the three gilded fates (Chelsea Adomaitis, Elle Macy, and Sarah Pasch) were especially fun to watch. All three ladies were unafraid to make big, sweeping movements but kept them clean and in sync.

Susie: I called them the “Golden Mushrooms” based on their costumes, and for all I understood about the story at that point, they could’ve been playing mushrooms. They were a great trio and whether mushrooms, fates, or something else entirely, I enjoyed watching them.

Colette: The only criticism I have of this piece was the somewhat awkward partnership of Laura Tisserand and Jonathan Porretta. By themselves they each were able to show off their strengths: Laura’s long, beautiful lines; and Jonathan’s quickness and great character acting. Together however, it seemed like they struggled a bit and had to be more careful since she was so much taller than he. They made the best of a difficult situation, though.

Susie: Yeah, I’d second that. It was a bit awkward. James Moore, however, was the opposite of awkward and should do a stint on Broadway at some point in his career! This style suited him very well and he has a talent for capturing an audience. The “father and son” storyline between James and Price Suddarth was a bit hard to believe since they aren’t more than 5-10 years apart in age in “real life”, but they both possess a solid ability to play a character role. At the end, James Moore rode off into the distance on the front of a train: finally giving a literal sense to the metaphor that the ballet was about, and leaving me a bit less confused than I was when it started.

Colette: The piece overall was a great way to close the PNB season!

Photos provided by these two gorgeous ladies

For more information Pacific Northwest Ballet click here.
If you are in the Seattle area… don’t forget that the 2016/2017 season tickets are already on sale!

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5 reasons we fell in love with ballet

5 Reasons why we fell in love with ballet

Everything is beautiful at the ballet… Edward Kleban said it all in his lyrics for A Chorus Line… When we were younger something resonated with us and sparked the passion for dancing. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the Nutcracker. I would watch the VHS versions of Nutcracker (PNB & the Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland version then I added the Balanchine Version) back to back, every day. It was magical… As I am doodling on Instagram, this week’s theme is “My first Ballet Class” so it has brought back a lot of childhood memories… And so, I haven’t done one of these in a while, so tonight, as I neglect to clean my house, I give you 5 reasons why we fell in love with ballet…

Tuesday

1. The Spectacle that is the Nutcracker… For a lot of us, Nutcracker was our first live ballet… Usually, it was a result of being in class and it was finally time for your first real ballet. It was the music and the costumes: Tutus bouncing up and down, skirts twirling, men’s jackets twinkling in the light, ribbons flowing in the air… and pointe shoes. It was the lights and the glamor: getting dressed up, the opera house lights dimming, the velvet curtain rising… It was everything that ballet is… enchanting.

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2. The Music. For some, it was the music. It is this epic music, full symphonic sounds and more than that… inspiring. Music for some dancers becomes the driving force of their careers, the ability to interpret music on the body— it’s inspiring.
3. The stories… for others it is the epic love stories, the tragedies that can’t be unwritten… the ability to become a princess, a swan and an enchantress, all in the same the night. It is the ability to forget who you are in reality, and be someone different. Who doesn’t want to escape and be a fabled princess, and get to live out your childhood heroines?
4. The Movement… it is the elegance, the posturing, the bravura of turns and jumps. The power of choreography says a lot. It is what makes a repertory live forever. The steps are just steps, but the movement itself can be inspired and brought to another level through artistry. I mean we have all seen really bad bourrés…. like really bad ones…

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5. And then there is the reason why I fell in love with ballet… a good ballet, meaning when the steps, the choreography, the dancers, the costumes the lighting all come together perfectly… it builds this adrenaline and once it is over it leaves you wanting more; much more. When a dancer is so generous with their soul, their artistry, their passion you become addicted to that dancer… It makes you want everything and then some… For me, it was Gelsey Kirkland in the first pas de deux (the music for snow PDD), it was Maia Rosal as the peacock, Lucinda Hughey as Dew Drop, Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel as Sugar Plum & Cavailer, and Kyra Nichols as Dew Drop. These women to me were goddesses. They were gorgeous… They were everything that I admired in ballet… and probably the reason I am so obsessed with ballet…

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No matter what it was that made us start ballet… we started… and here we are as adults… either professional dancers, ballet go-ers, ballet lovers, and just in general ballet fans. When you start a love affair with ballet, it doesn’t really ever end. Even if your career ends because of injury, and you end up hating ballet… it is only for a while… But you always find a way back to ballet… you see a youtube video, or a performance, or something… no matter what it is… everytime you hear the music for Nutcracker, or you see a great performance on social media… you fall in love all over again…

Don’t forget … English National Ballet streams their emerging dancer performance live today!!! All six are super stunning but I am in love Rina Kanehara and Cesar Corrales… (11:25AM PDT)  http://emerging-dancer.ballet.org.uk

The Leading Ladies of Pacific Northwest Ballet

leading ladies of pnb FINAL

The ferocious women of PNB are basically legends… There is this perception of the women of PNB that they are legends… Tall, leggy, extremely turned out, and incredible jumpers with ferocious musicality… The rumours are true… If you have ever seen the women of PNB perform they are fearless, leggy, amazon women. So, of course I would doodle them because as we all know… Tall female dancers are my chocolate truffle…

To be completely honest though, I have only seen three of them perform live. Carrie Imler is ferocious, Noelani Pantastico is delightfully exciting, and Lesley Rausch is a master in generosity on stage. These are the celebrated women of PNB, the toast of the town in Seattle, and this is my tribute to these women.

you can click the image above to purchase the print.

This week in Ballet News…

This week was a super exciting week in ballet world…
Boston Ballet opened Onegin.
NYCB closed their season with killer black and white ballets.
PNB and Houston Ballet took on NYC with killer reviews.
Dutch national Ballet premiered their killer campaign for Best of Balanchine.
San Francisco closed their Swan Lake.
Los Angeles Ballet sold out their Don Q.
Royal Ballet’s Iana Salenko made her debut in Giselle.
Atlanta Ballet named their new artistic director coming from San Fran Ballet: Gennadi Nedvigin
Ballet West had their YAGP Gala
THE YAGP regionals are happening
Corella School of Ballet in Spain’s new PR photos look like they are out of Vogue.
And a bunch more…. but what is more important… Whitney Jensen left Boston Ballet last July, and it was kind of a shocker. 2 weeks ago she announced she was joining Norwegian National Ballet in Oslo, and she departed to take her contract there this week. So here is to you Ms. Jensen and best of luck!
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Follow her endeavors on Insta: @whitneybugs

Secondly…. Has Boston Ballet become a stepping stone for dancers now? In 2004, Sarah Lamb left her principal position to Royal. In 2012 James Whiteside left his principal position for ABT. Last year Boston lost Whitney Jensen  (to Norwegian National Ballet) and Jeffrey Cirio (American Ballet Theatre). So, here are my speculations:

  1. Boston Ballet AD is either an amazing coach and director, and have nurtured his dancers into bigger things or his dancers are extremely talented and they are outgrowing him or he is pushing them to reach out and explore.
  2. Boston Ballet’s repertory and performance schedule isn’t enough for it’s high caliber of dancers.
  3. Boston Ballet’s politics are too intense and no one wants to put up with them.
  4. The Boston audience is as responsive to the company’s performances, thus limiting the budget for dancers and the costs of living are too high.
  5. Boston Ballet has recruited such talent over the past ten years, cultivated it to a point no one saw coming… and the dancers have gone on their own to find ways to push themselves to their limits and find new opportunities to grow.

IF YOU ARE A CORPS DANCER AND ARE WILLING TO TALK TO ME VIA EMAIL OR SKYPE TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR THE CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL… EMAIL ME PLEASE! ABALLETEDUCATION@GMAIL.COM

 

The American Ballerina: the 21st century prima

The American Ballerina in the 21st century

What truly does it mean to be an American Ballerina? 
The idea of an American Ballerina isn’t far fetched at all, and actually since the cold war, America has become one of greatest manufacturers of ballet dancers.  While up until the Cold War, ballet was dominated by the Russians.  The history of ballet is funny, because as each generation of prima ballerinas comes to the forefront, they are influenced by culture, society, and what is “popular” in ballet. Today, we are blessed with the wonders of youtube and ballet in cinema, so we can see a variety of ballet dancers instantaneously. So, as a reflection of culture, we now have a true generation of American Ballerinas.

So, we have to kind of set up some conditions that define an American Ballerina:

1. Born in the United States.
2. Trained in the United States.
3. Dances with an American Company.
4. Has achieved the rank of principal dancer.
5. Has contributed to the next generation of dancers.

As we are at a time in ballet that celebrates the most innovate choreography, the most brilliant music, and the most technical phase of ballet, there are two extraordinary women that come to mind:

Tiler Peck and Lia Cirio
Ironically, neither dancer has the typical ballet body type. When we say typical we mean Russian girl body type, or Paris Opera Body type.  Additionally, the two women are completely different.  These two women though have created a new space and new ideal for dance.  Tiler Peck has created a generation of a more jazz meets Balanchine dancer making it possible for competitive studio trained dancers transition into ballet companies and schools. While, Lia Cirio has created an athletic provocative archetype of a prima ballerina. The only two things these women really have in common is really good teeth and a really great smile

The Run Down on these women:

Tiler Peck: sporadic training in the greater Los Angeles area, transitioning to School of American Ballet, joined NYCB in 2004, became a principal in 2009. Gorgeous turns, and fills the stage. First was really seen in the welcome to SAB DVD. Balanchine trained. Subtle sensitivity and sweetness in her approach to roles.
lia cirio american ballerina

Lia Cirio: random school, transitioning to CPYB, joined Boston Ballet in 2004, became a soloist in 2007, joined the Trey McIntyre project, came back to BB in 2010 to become promoted to principal. Banging hyperextension, ferocious arabesque. First major appearance in ballet: YAGP 2003. Classically trained. A body articulate conscious approach to a role.

So what makes these two women stand out compared to say… Hee Seo or Maria Kotchekova? Well, besides the fact that both of these women aren’t born and raised in the US, they are both ridiculously Russian trained, which is gorgeous, I’m not saying that they are awful. I am saying that they fit previous archetype of what a prima ballerina is. While Hee Seo was groomed to take Julie Kent’s place, Maria Kotchekova became the standard of SFB’s short girl. While Misty Copeland has made the compelling presence and awareness of race in ballet, I don’t think her actual dancing is ground breaking. (sorry, I know I am going to hear shit for that) Then we have other leading women in the US: Carrie Imler at PNB creating the athletic look at PNB, Isabella Boylston at ABT has reinvented the Paloma Herrera, but with better arms. Maria Kowroski is like the Balanchine version of Sylvie. Wendy Whelan created the skinny fit athletic body archetype.

As these two women expand their repertory, who knows what they will create for the ballet world? It’s exciting.

In other ballet news: ABT: Paloma Herrera is getting a weird farewell with a matinee performance of Giselle, followed by Xiomara Reyes’s farewell at 7:30.  Totally getting gipped, but maybe her name just doesn’t sell seats? ABT’s PBS special AMERICAN MASTER Series was beyond gorgeous.
NYCB & SFB: have a ridiculously amount of talented people in the ranks of soloists and corps but won’t be promoted until others retire. *cough cough* hang up the pointe shoes *cough cough*
Paris Opera: Natalie Portman’s Baby Daddy is making amazing moves and changes at POB.
PNB: Please promote Leta already.
Atlanta Ballet: Had the most beautiful end to their season.
Milwaukee Ballet: Their version of Cinderella was an okay finish for the season.

Little Jessy is prepping for LA BALLET. Her go fund me is still up, any donations will go towards pointe shoes, leotards etc. http://www.gofundme.com/jessylaballet

Don’t forget to use the code SCIE15 for 15% off Eros Sportswear for Men.

The Guide to FiercenessMy guide to fierceness is almost done. Holla for a dolla!

A List of Farewells…

Many of the principals we have come to love and adore, or have forgotten about have announced their retirements this year. This morning, Carla Korbes announced her retirement from PNB. Her stunning career has been plagued with injuries, but her collaborations with Peter Boal have definitely paid off, and have have been celebrated.

Other principals to retire are NYCB’s beloved Wendy Whelan, and ABT’s Paloma Herrera both set to retire in October. Julie Kent is going to be retiring in the Spring Season. There are plenty of others who should retire, haha, but that is neither here nor there. The point is that these three women have made huge contributions to the world of ballet, and as they leave, they are making room for a stunning new set of leading ladies to take center stage.

Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

Sugar Plums: 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

(The list of 5 Reasons why the Nutcracker won’t ever go away can be found by clicking here.)

Sugared plums are probably one of the nastiest tasting confections known to mankind, but the reality is they are beautiful. They possess a kind of quality fit for a ballet. And just like the ballet, Nutcracker is probably one of the nastiest, politically incorrect ballets. But, we still take our kids year after year anyways… I don’t know if Balanchine purposefully tried to avoid the racism by renaming the variations, but somehow racism it still made made its way into the choreography of the ballet. As a strong believer that dance/ballet is a reflection of humanity, it scares me that we have not evolved passed racial stereotypes. So, in honor of all of the Nutcracker stuff that is going around… 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker.

  1. Behold the glory of second act… Or the racism that is the second act. As progressive as dancers are, we still allow racist movements within the ballets. Chinese is ridiculous, and Arabian is hyper sexualized when in modern day reality, women are oppressed. Does anyone even know why Spanish is called hot chocolate? Hot chocolate was “invented” by the Aztecs and Mayans. Yup, there is a lot of racism. Not to mention the male glory of Russian, and the exuding of machismo testosterone.
  2. The entirety of Nutcracker is basically based on a psychological complex: projecting fantasies on to doll, Drosselmeier is just creepy in general and her parents don’t play a role in her life.
  3. Am I the only one who is concerned that flowers is not a confection? In the second act, a lot of versions have tried avoiding the race card by renaming the variations after confections, except waltz…
  4. Nutcracker really does not make sense. Yeah, I said it. The two act ballet really could be summed up into one act, but the fantasy of act 2 gets the best of us. Sometimes I feel like we should actually just cut the entire first act except snow, and turn act 1 into a shorter abridged prologue… Dads would be happier if act 1 was shorter.
  5. Finally, it always astounds me that the casting of Nutcracker. Nutcracker has to be the most politically incorrect ballet when it comes to casting. I guess for all white companies, it really doesn’t matter, but for those who are asian will probably always get cast as chinese, and for those who are ethnic, spanish… It is sad. I remember one time we were doing Balanchine’s version of Nutcracker and one of my best friends and I were in the same cast… (he is black) and the two of us were pointed out that we dance spanish corps the best and I quote, “They aren’t even European. He is oriental.” As she pointed at me. That day was the day I decided that I truly would have to dance ten times harder to even be noticed for my dancing.

As Nutcracker rehearsals are around the corner, I wonder what other racist things will be said to impressionable children?

Stay tuned for the 5 best Nutcracker productions.

Aurora in the Sleeping Boring… I mean beauty.

Tchaikovsky has the big three: the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and the Sleeping Beauty. Three epic ballets that tell the tale of fantasy, tragedy and happily ever afters. Every little girl and some little boys, dream of dancing one, if not all of these roles: the Sugar Plum Fairy, Odette/Odile, and Aurora. The Sugar Plum fairy, isn’t a hard role, it is more the test of performance quality. Odette/Odile requires the mastery of emotions, having multiple personalities and the stamina of a horse. And then there is the princess role, the helpless, effervescent and charming Aurora.

In the prologue Aurora doesn’t dance, but skillful fairies do. Masterfully gliding through each variation with delicacy and poise. In the first act, Aurora is sixteen and full of life entering after the epic Sleeping Beauty waltz. It is probably why so many girls relate to this role. With charm and sass a sixteen year old, she then hesitantly gives her hand to four suitors in the leg tiring Rose Adagio. She then pricks her finger, and dies. JK. In the second act Aurora is faced with the challenge of being dreamy as the pas de deux and variations set the tone for the prince. Finally, when she awakens, she is still that sixteen year old girl who fell asleep at her birthday. So with an element of surprise, and awakening with a kiss…. Please hold as I rant:

Am I the only one who is quite disturbed that no one has bothered looking at the psyche. We are all trying to develop the character, but the reality is that she was asleep for 100 years, and so when she awakens, she is still sixteen. What sixteen year old would wake up gracefully from a stranger kissing them? So, as everyone who talks about how in the third act they are more womanly, mature, etc…. The reality is, that clashes with the story line.

In addition, may I point out… Why is every fairytale invited? Don’t they have anything better to do? If you look at the original score there is extra music for Cinderella and her Prince, etc. I am just sayin… Third act really has nothing to do with Aurora. It is basically like the third act of Paquita; a chance to show off the company. Enough ranting…
5 Things Aurora Didn’t Know…

  1. Aurora is secondary to the dancing. Prologue sets the story up and demonstrates the skill of the soloists in the company. In the first act, all she has is her variation, which most audience viewers don’t know the music to. So, they relate more to Garland Waltz… Yes, she has Rose Adagio, and that is probably one of the hardest things any ballerina will face. But, the reality is, it has nothing to do with Aurora but the actual skill of the ballerina. In the second act, it is really more about the prince, and setting up his quest to find the love of his life. In the Paris Opera Nureyev version this is an adagio variation for the male, which is ridiculously technical, dreamy but technical. Finally, in act three, you really only have a pas de deux to get through, which is basically the lesser version of Sugar Plum Pas De Duex. The music itself is kind of anticlimactic and the only thing exciting in the Pas is the en dedan turns into a one handed fish.
  2. Aurora didn’t know she was going to prick her finger… So, instead of telling the poor girl about the curse, her parents tried to hide the truth from her. This ignorance is her downfall. Ignorance and innocence should not be taken as the same thing.
  3. Aurora’s character is the anti feminist. As a helpless woman, who is set up or failure from the get go. The idea and concept of the fairytale is cute for the time being, but translated to modern day times, the story relates to young girls more than young adults. This I think causes the gap between the ballet and the audience goer.
  4. Aurora’s variations are boring. I feel like compared to the variations of Odette/Odile, and Sugar Plum, and while we are at it… Every other classical ballet, her variations are kind of lackluster. If you are dancing with a live orchestra, then I guess you can arrange the music in first act to do more pirouettes to make it exciting, but other than that… Your one moment to shine is basically dull. (Ironically, Aurora 3rd Act Wedding Variation performed by Precious Adams won the Prixde Lausanne.)
  5. Aurora didn’t know that this entire ballet really has nothing to do with her in the title role. Instead it is about the company’s strength. The amount of soloists you have to use is insane. Don’t get me wrong, it gives the company a chance to really dance, but no one really understands the entire ballet, unless you know ballet. I think when most people hear the Sleeping Beauty, they connect it to the Disney version and don’t realize they have signed up for a 3 hour ballet. I am not saying we should replicate Disney… But in a recent production, that I took a date to… He fell asleep. He fell asleep after Rose Adagio… So an hour into the ballet of drawn out miming and endless fairy variations, he was gone. But, when we went to see Serenade, and Les Sylphide he thoroughly enjoyed it…

Again… as ballet is dying and companies insist on doing the same ballets over and over again… They are killing their audiences. If you look at the Diaghilev and Ballets Russes era… even the Balanchine era, new ballets were being produced by the month. Again, just my opinion of why companies are dying…

The Beast that is the Nutcracker…

In the repertory of classical ballets, there is one ballet that trumps them all. It isn’t number one because of the physical demands, and it is definitely not number one because of artistic merit. In fact, this ballet probably is the most unartistic for any artist. It is probably the most recognized of score of any ballet music, from variations, to even the prologue, everyone knows it. It is the beast: THE NUTCRACKER.

It is no secret that most ballet companies make money twice a year. The first is by offering summer programs from June-August. The second comes in December and seats are sold out for their annual productions of the Nutcracker. For the majority of companies, the Nutcracker runs seamless. Everyone already knows all the parts, they are just waiting for the casting. Lighting, and costuming is already done for the most part, and just rely on tweaking things here and there. For marketing and PR, it is the best time to host fundraisers since everyone is in that holiday spirit of donating money. And for the audiences, it is that timeless, almost boring tradition, that doesn’t go away.

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PNB’s infamous Peacock. I probably prefer this variation more than the Balanchine one.

 

For most young aspiring dancers, the Nutcracker was the first ballet parents ever took us to.  Whether it was on VHS, directly talking about the Baryshnikov and Kirkland version, or PNB’s collaboration with Maurice Sendak. Or, the NYCB version featuring Macauly Culkin and Darci Kistler. So, for the majority of our young lives we prayed that one day we would get to dance in the Nutcracker. And then it happens… You get cast in your school’s version of the Nutcracker. You start as a child in Mother Ginger and party scene. You pray that you get picked to be Clara/Marie, and maybe you do. Then, you start to get smaller supporting roles, and finally you are in the corps of flowers and snow. By 13, you are dancing Marzipan/Mirlitons, and by 15 you are maybe Dew Drop. Next thing you know you are at a professional ballet school, and you never get to dance in Nutcracker again. Until, one day you are lucky enough to land yourself a company contract.

Five years later, after dancing professionally, you hear the music at department stores and cringe. Now you dread Nutcracker. It is the most boring of the ballets, and you dance it time and time again. If you are still a corps member you already know that you will be a party parent and in the same show you will have to dance in both snow and flowers. You hear the same corrections in flowers, “Bend more!” or “Watch your spacing.” In snow you already know that you need to move a little quicker than the music, and you watch the new apprentices and corps members struggle to keep up. Yup, it is that holiday tradition of being in a ballet company that brings dancers together. 

So, what is it about this ballet that is so charismatic and is performed every season?

hong kong ballet waltz of the flowers

5 reasons why the Nutcracker will never go away…

  1. Curse you Tchaikovsky! The score of Nutcracker is close to flawless in terms of musical genius. All of the music is relatable, catchy, and keeps the audience entertained. 
  2. It is magical, and is every little girl’s dream. Because it is the first ballet we ever see, it becomes engrained in us. It sparks the hope of millions of little girls to become ballet dancers.
  3. It is short and sweet. The shortest of the classical ballets, where the story is compressed into the first act and the second act is purely about the dancing. It is probably the only ballet your dad can sit through. Most little girls can’t sit through all of Swan Lake, or even get through act I without having to use the bathroom, get bored, or fall asleep.
  4. The test of a dancer. Dancers I think are tested a lot in the Nutcracker. Because you have so many performances, there are a lot more casting opportunities. If in a run of a regular program there may be only two or three casts. During Nutcracker, there are at least five casts, if not more. This gives the Artistic Director a chance to play around with their dancers. For an artistic director who wants to see something more dark and mysterious from a dancer, he will cast her in Arabian/Coffee. If they want to test a dancer’s stamina they put her Dew Drop. And if they want to see maturity, and ability they cast in her Sugar Plum. 
  5. It makes money! If it wasn’t for the Nutcracker, dancers wouldn’t have jobs for an entire season. So, we suck it up so we can dance all year round. 

You know you trained Balanchine if…

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Have you ever gone to an audition, and you are sizing up the competition before the class begins? It doesn’t even have to be an audition, it can just be an open class. As you look around, you start to size dancers up by “look”. Instantly, you can spot those dancers. Balanchine trained dancers. Even before barre starts, even before the first piano chord is played and you take your first plié, you can tell… You can spot Balanchine boys pretty easily: the white socks and white ballet shoes on black tights with a white shirt. You can usually spot Balanchine girls by their high buns, or the Balanchine bun (it is like a hybrid bun/ french twist). Once the music starts, then you can really tell who trained Balanchine, here are some of the “giveaways”…  and if you trained Balanchine, you might get a giggle…

So, you know you trained Balanchine if… 

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1. Your hands are remotely “claw” shaped. This could be the modified CPYB hand, or the hands that come from Ballet Austin (kind of a more contemporary relaxed version). You know you came from SAB if you are really all about the “claw” and broken wrist. Yup, just by the hands you can tell.

2. Your tendus are over crossed and you automatically assume the accent is in or down.

3. You don’t use elaborate port de bras during barre combinations.  During port de bras and cambré you roll through your spine instead of a straight back.

4. Your developpés happen in one count, or less, but this idea can be applied to grand pliés, or anything for that matter.

5. When coming out of a relevé you emphasize the pressing of  the heels down.

So, that was just barre… Center (Centre)

You know you trained Balanchine if…

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1. The obvious… Pirouette off of a straight back leg, and for fun you try to turn from a ridiculously large, deep, exaggerated fourth.

2. You are awesome at petite allegro.

3. In assemblé you bring the supporting leg to the working leg, and in jetés your coupe happens instantly- and you might bend a little for show…

4. In your saut de chat.. your back leg is probably higher than your front. During grand allegro you probably travel the furthest…

5. You over cross everything… including port de bras.

6. You know you came from SAB if you have Suki Schorer’s voice in your head saying, “no, AND one.”

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(And as a side comment: Balanchine dancers are my favorite to watch, and I think the Balanchine Aesthetic… since that is what it is now being called instead of technique… is gorgeous. Insert European remarks here…)