Saturday, November 25, 2006

Snowflakes, Fairies and Nuts

Lani and I enjoyed The Albany Berkshire Ballet's Nutcracker at the Flynn tonight. I find that there is no better way to get into the holiday spirit than a healthy dose of The Nutcracker. The show started out sloooow (oh how the opening party scene bores me so) and Clara was a tad young (she doesn't even go on point!?) and, imho, lacked spunk. But as soon as the lights lowered and the Christmas tree started to grow, I was hooked.

We used to go see The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center when we were kids. The tree growing is one of my earliest memories of live performance. It continues to impress me today.

Even more than the rigid ballet moves, the music transports me. I got a tape of The Nutcracker's score by Pytor Illych Tchaikovsky's when I was 13 and I used to prance around the house to that music for hours. As overplayed as it may be in the holiday season, it still gives me joy.

Growing up, I watched the American Ballet Theatre's 1977 version of the Nutcracker with Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland over and over again on PBS. It is hard to top Baryshnikov and those legs of steel.

The Waltz of the Snowflakes always reminds me of the film The Turning Point in which a drunken ballerina (she gets drunk after Baryshnikov dumps her - man, he is all over the place) has difficulty performing her duties as a snowflake. She teeters in the back of the chorus until another dancer takes pity on her and pushes her off stage. Since that movie, I have always hoped to see a drunken snowflake.

The music for The Waltz of the Snowflakes always gives me warm fuzzies. The dulcet sounds of the children's choir used to run through my head Christmas night while I was lying awake with anticipation. It is so satisfying to see dancers moving to this music and embellishing the lutes, drums, and clarinets.

Sadly, the music for the production tonight was piped in (they needed the whole stage, there wouldn't have been room for the orchestra!) and to make matters worse, the speakers were blowing out when the music was too loud. Still, I got some chills when The Sugar Plum Fairy got lifted about her consort's head during the huge crescendos.

The Little Gallop of the children got a gasp and a burst of applause every time. It took a looong time for this procession of the tiniest members of the company (who were wearing little white leotards with fuzzy reindeer horns - awwww) to drag Clara across the stage in her sleigh. Child labor, hello!? The Trepak (male Russian dancer) got the warmest reception which was well deserved as he had springs in his feet that bounced him up to the rafters repeatedly. I was a fan of the Arabian dancer who was classy and sexy and limber.

And as an aside, check out this dirt on Pytor, The Nutcracker's composer. He married the first woman who chased him and ended up staying with her his whole life (despite the fact that he was gay). He tried to kill himself by jumping in a river and he exchanged over 1200 letters with his patroness. It was assumed that he died of cholera from drinking infected water but there is a new, much more exciting theory making the rounds:

In this account, Tchaikovsky committed suicide by consuming small doses of arsenic following an attempt to blackmail him over his homosexuality. His alleged death by cholera (whose symptoms have some similarity with arsenical poisoning) is supposed to have been a cover for this suicide. According to the theory, Tchaikovsky's own brother Modest Tchaikovsky, also homosexual, helped conspire to keep the secret.

Eeek! Slow, secret death by arsenic...takes guts. And on another odd note, an uber cool Russian blog (why can't I read Russian!? argh!) featured my Sofia Coppola Hate rant here. I am rather curious what the translation of this sentence might be:

любопытная стервочка, смешная к тому же, интересно, как она в постеле кричит?

Oooh, scenique just translated his statement for me (thanks!):

i said that its an interesting film and that you look lovely, that's all. i dont like a final scene with fake Sofia, because she is very fake. but as a whole your film is really good.

And to finish, here is some Clara (on point as she should be!) and her Nutcracker prince:

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