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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rediscovering Nutcracker

I recently watched the National Ballet of China perform the Nutcracker, that beloved ballet classic of the US - despite its European origins, it is more popular in the "New World". It was a marvelous appropriation of this Western classic to Chinese traditions - instead of Christmas, it's Chinese New Year, and instead of the heroine and prince transported to the Land of Sweets, they find themselves in the Land of Ceramics. The giant Golden Pig of Prosperity, not Mother Ginger, opened to reveal adorable children dressed as gold ingots. The audience went wild.

I enjoyed it, but found myself longing for the more traditional, European version, with choreography I'd grown up with - I like both New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet versions, but my absolute favorite is the Stowell-Sendak version for Pacific Northwest Ballet. I watched the PNB version (it's on iTunes!) and despite it being way past Christmas, I suddenly found myself falling in love with this classic fairytale through new eyes.

One thing hasn't changed, though; I feel an immense emotional swell every time the Nutcracker sheds his bulky toy's head and becomes Himself. It's something truly magical: He's been freed from his wooden confines through the heroine's valor and can now truly be. It's a stunningly beautiful moment.

I've somehow made my way through a couple of Nutcracker productions before ('Arabian' in the photo), and I suddenly find myself wanting to dance it - for those of you ballet dancers who have performed countless Nutcrackers, you can believe that I never thought I'd say that.

I'm not a ballerina, but I find myself a little girl once more, wanting to experience the magic all over again.
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