Monday, December 28, 2009

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at NYC Ballet since 1954


New York City Ballet gave its first performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker in February, 1954. Since then, the Company has danced 1,560 performances and it continues to capture the attention of children and families.  All 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and two casts of 50 young students each from the School of American Ballet join forces to make each performance as magical as possible. Children of all ages from New York City and the nation fill the New York State Theater to be captivated by the lure of Tschaikovsky's music, Balanchine's choreography, Karinska's sumptuous costumes, and Rouben Ter-Arutunian's magical sets. George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™, based on the Alexandre Dumas pere version of E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), demands a full-scale production.  The elaborate stage elements and intricate lighting unleash the viewers' imagination by providing visual effects that are extraordinarily grand. The most famous example is the one-ton Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 feet to 40 feet, evoking audible gasps of disbelief from the audience at each performance. Other notable feats include the comic figure of "Mother Ginger"--85 pounds and nine feet wide, the costume requires handling by three people once it is lowered by pulley over the dancer's head--as well as the continuous flutter of the purest, crystal-shaped snowflakes (which are swept up and conserved after each performance for reuse).  While these technical achievements are wonderful fun, it is Balanchine's choreography that sustains the ballet through two acts. Act I introduces the characters--the Stahlbaum children, Marie and Fritz, Herr Drosselmeier and his Nephew--and also begins the transition from reality into fantasy with the concluding Snowflake Waltz. Act II offers the complete transformation. We have entered the "Kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy" and there is no turning back.  NYC Ballet calender and Nutcracker tickets here.

Read more about the Nutcracker

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Photo: Paul Kolnik

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