The Nutcracker

This past Sunday, we watched The Nutcracker live. It was so much fun, and a much needed break from these last very stressful couple weeks.

Snow Queen and Snow King and the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier were played by professional dancers (dual roles; there were exactly 2 professional dancers in this performance), every other role was danced by students from the school in charge of the production. That being said, I was very impressed by the quality of the dancing, especially by the  solos. Actually, with the exception of the children’s roles – and even then, it may have been intentional, part of the choreography – I didn’t see any obvious mistakes. So, either it was flawless, or these students have been trained well enough to continue going even after making a mistake (or I have a terrible eye for good ballet). Either way, I was impressed.

It was my first time seeing The Nutcracker – or any ballet –  live, and the last time I saw it was on Netflix about a year ago. So my memory was somewhat fuzzy about the exact order of things and stuff like that.  I did remember that it has good music, but then, don’t all of Tchaikovski’s ballets?

Act ! was kind of slow, the only notable exception was the Toy Soldier that comes to life. Well, I guess the toy ballerina (apparently called the Columbine Doll) that comes to life dance was good too. Regarding when Drosselmeyel pops back in in the Rat King fighting scene, during intermission Boyfriend asked “Did he just break back in, or had he not gone back home?” I answered “She dreamed the whole thing” which is an interesting theory (though I’m not saying correct).

The dance of the Snow Queen was pretty good. I love the music! I really wish this dance was not at the end of Act 1 because by then I was honestly getting restless. I don’t know… Act 1 party scenes are not really my thing; I see them as what we must sit thru to get to the good parts. I hope thats not ballet blasphemy there…

Anyway, Act 2 is when it really got exciting  (sorry, to all of you that prefer Act 1), when all the little solos happen. This I did remember from watching The Nutcracker before, so I was looking forward to it. It seemed like intermission took forever (and still, there were people that did not take advantage of this perfect opportunity to use the restroom, preferring instead to wait until during a solo – hell, why not make it really interesting and go during the Russian Dance – to stand up and block the view of those lucky enough to be seated behind them (me)).  Those were the moments when I wondered: if we went to a professional company’s ballet performance would the audience be just a bit more respectful?

The Russian dancer (there was only one) was amazing, as was the Arabian dancer, though obviously for different reasons.  I’m a big fan of watching male dancers display their incredible jumping power, and this dancer did not disappoint. Lots of jumps, lots of turns, lots of turns while jumping! He had 180°+ split jumps (lots of them in a row), different kinds of turns (that my beginning-dancing self has not even been introduced to), lots of different jumps (that I’m not even going to attempt to describe other than awesome), and when he first entered the stage he did several hand-less cartwheels. How cool is that?!

The costuming was rather creative as he wasn’t wearing what I thought is the “traditional” Russian Dancer outfit – the red and black – but these baggy knee-length brownish green trousers and no shirt.  He looked good, and I wasn’t complaining, but I do wonder if I was more familiar with The Nutcracker -if I actually had had expectations – if it would have felt like a letdown. But then maybe the traditional costume only looks good when there’s several Russian dancers…

As for the Arabian dancer, I didn’t pay enough attention to detail to notice the subtle differences in the costume. I was too distracted by her slow, high extensions and controlled poses. At some point I overheard a child a in the row behind me say “She’s such a good dancer!”. She was, but of course it’s also that I’m  partial to slow graceful dancing from female dancers and Arabian is one of my favorite parts of the ballet.

The Chinese dance (2 dancers, one guy and one girl, in Chinese outifits, I guess) was very fast paced and full of (extremely high and foot-pointed) jumps. Seriously, it was the kind of dance that I would be horribly unsuited for, but I love to watch someone that can pull it off do it – and they pulled it off pretty well. However, it was at times cringeworthy, looking like every Chinese stereotype from a past historical period. Boyfriend and I were discussing it on the way home and he said he had felt the same way (at first I’d thought it may just have been me, since I may at times be oversensitive).

The Waltz of the Flowers was awesome. I loved how there were so many turns in it, and of course, the music. Loved all the ecchapes and pique turns (or whatever turns that looked a lot like pique turns they were doing).  I was having so much sensory overload at the show – I didn’t know whether to look at their feet or the whole picture or focus on any particular dancer. Solos are always easier to focus on and not feel overwhelmed.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching the corps dance, it’s just that I find myself having difficulty focusing on the big picture.

Boyfriend told me when he bought the tickets the guy who sold them to him was gushing about the two principal dancers, and in particular the Sugar Plum Fairy dance; apparently the dancers were both individually awesome dancers but also happened to pair up perfectly as well.. So it was a bit hyped up. And the pas de deux was great – lots of cool lifts, beautiful music – but I guess I didn’t see how the Sugar Plum Fairy dance was considered better than some of the other solo the dances . The Cavalier, on the other hand, was great. He was another multiple 180°+ split jumps in a row kind of guy.  And his turns were so graceful!  During his solo parts the crowd by the end was practically applauding continuously.

It was a fun show, and from the looks of the shows professional companies put on, a scaled back show. But we had fun and that;s what matters, right? I think I pestered Boyfriend with questions about the show for the rest of the night…

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