Saturday, December 4, 2010
The Nutcracker Ballet, How It All Began
Last night, I went with my family to The Nutcracker Ballet performed by Utah's top ballet company, Ballet West (thank you to Emily and Isaac - niece and her husband for the tickets!). It was a wonderful, joyful experience.
For many families in America, seeing some version of the Nutcracker Ballet is an annual, Christmas tradition. Have you ever wondered how it all began?
In the late 1800's Marius Petipa, ballet's greatest choreographer, commissioned Tchaikovsky (see photo) to compose music for a ballet based on Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". The ballet had its premier in St. Petersburg in 1892. Unfortunately, it wasn't all that successful.
The Nutcracker Ballet made its way to America in the 1930's. Two decades later, the great George Balanchine re-choreographed the dance (basing it on Petipa's original) and premiered this version with the New York City Ballet in 1954. This version has been performed by the company every year since.
My favorite version of The Nutcracker was the one choreographed by the incomparable Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1970's for the American Ballet Theater. In this version, the role of Clara, usually performed by a child dancer, is performed by a young woman, crossing the line from child to woman as she falls in love with the Nutcracker in her Christmas Eve dreams. The choreography is inspired and when performed with the supreme athleticism and astonishing sensitivity of the great Baryshnikov, perfectly coupled here with prima ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, the production is blissful.
If you would like to see the 1977 PBS performance of Baryshnikov's The Nutcracker, it can be purchased HERE.
I have seen this version both on stage and on TV and have had the privilege of seeing Baryshnikov live on a number of occasions. He is considered one of the greatest dancers of the last century, right next to Nijinsky and Nureyev. It is rare to find such incredible strength and physical perfection as well as that depth of emotional expression in the same dancer. I wonder if I will ever see anything like him again in my lifetime.
Thank you for stopping by on this wonderful December Saturday. If you haven't entered my Give-Away, Click on the image in the right hand column and do it by Sunday at 11:59 p.m!
Stop back by for more Christmas countdown fun.