Saturday December 12th, 2020, 2pm. First virtual “Nutcracker” Family Benefit event, spearheaded by Shannon Caspersen, Rebecca Hessel Cohen, Alyssa Tablada, and Olivia Wassenaar, Benefit Chairs.
This week, I wanted to tell you about a new, exciting, and for once, upcoming, virtual fund-raising event, taking place next Saturday afternoon, from two of the most outstanding NYC dance companies: The New York City Ballet, and the School of American Ballet; whose repertories and new works, from incredibly gifted choreographers, over the years, have constantly enchanted us, and still do today, delighting and overjoying so many of us, as they will, tomorrow, and in a way, of course, only The Performing Arts, can.
Proceeds will provide vital support for NYCB and its Education Programs, as well as SAB’s Scholarship Fund.
It is not to be missed by any ballet/dance fan around the world, for your and your family’s enjoyment; as this wonderful virtual Family Benefit, around George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, will celebrate digitally, and colorfully, with pizzazz, and great fun, an iconic holiday’s treasured tradition for many, which sparkles with magic, imagination, lights, snow, exoticism, beauty, love, and just as importantly, as well, in these shorter, darker, cold winter days, unbridled hope and joy!
And this amazing virtual event will include incredibly rich and interesting material, in particular, never-seen-before footage, of NYCB’s performance of this ballet, live on the Lincoln Center’s stage, in 2019.
And it is important to underscore, for some of you international readers, how dear to New Yorkers hearts, this ballet is to many of us, who return regularly, for many, every winter, with their families, (myself included) to capture some of its powerful enchanting, and beautiful qualities, which suddenly signal, to many of us, that some of the best of the season’s joyful outings, are finally back, to help us enhance, and celebrate with flair, and fun, the holidays, with our families.
And to me, it is not surprising, that flair is found in this dance masterpiece, as this beautiful two act ballet, composed in 1892, is based on an E.T.A. Hoffmann unusually imaginative, and fairytale like, story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.
To summarize loosely the ballet plot, just know that George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, features in Act 1, a young girl’s mundane, yet glittering, and already somewhat magical world, filled at Christmas, with family, toys (with some, coming to life, including a nutcracker, transformed eventually into a handsome Prince), mice, adventure, and sweets; who then, by Act 2, is sent, with her Prince, to a fantasy world, a “Land of Sweets”, ruled by “The Sugar Plum fairy” in the Prince’s place, until his return; which, when he, (the Prince), does, accompanied by the young girl, leads to The Sugar Plumb’s fairy’s departure, on a reindeer drawn sleigh, of course, since it is Christmas!
In a nutshell, an unusual, fun, (amusingly, slightly bonkers), and incredibly imaginative, holiday plot!
Also it is important to keep in mind, that the timelessness of this iconic 19th century ballet, “The Nutcracker”, is due, in my mind, to the genius of the original “choreographer”, none other than, world acclaimed “Premier Maitre de ballet”, Marius Petipa (and later, Lev Ivanov), on ravishing music by Tchaikovsky, that had been commissioned to the composer, by the Imperial Theatre’s Director in Russia, further to the success, two years prior, of Tchaikovsky’s stunning ballet “The Sleeping Beauty”, also choreographed with Petipa.
Also,”The Nutcracker” was to be part, believe it or not, at the time of its inception, of a double bill program in Russia, featuring as well an opera, Tchaikovsky’s last one, entitled “Iolanta”, whose stunning music (in particular Iolanta’s aria), is also worth listening to, and which has only recently, become more popular outside of Russia.
And years later, “The Nutcracker” was eventually staged outside of Russia, in England in 1934, and then in the United States, in 1940, by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, after Petipa’s version.
The New York City Ballet gave its first annual performance of George Balanchine’s reworked staging, in 1954, and the performance of the iconic, beautiful, principal ballerina, Maria Tallchief, in the role of “Sugar Plum fairy”, helped elevate the work, and turn it into an annual American Christmas classic.
Beginning in the 1960’s, the tradition of performing the complete ballet, at Christmas, eventually caught on with the rest of the United States; and many choreographers have since, made their own versions, and it is present as well, in many other art forms also, in some form or another.
How about that?
And all this rich and uplifting history of “the Nutcracker”, explains in my mind, why this ballet is so dear to many of us, here in the Big Apple, around the country, and around the world.
And I wanted to share today, some of my favorite ‘”scenes” of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® ballet, as a fun prelude, for our present enjoyment, before the actual Family Benefit next Saturday!
Of the 15 “tableaux”, I mostly prefer, the ones featured in the second Act, as they are, (to me), even more colorful, joyful, dazzling, international, in one word: awesome!
Yet from the first Act, here is my very favorite scene: the epic, and truly charming “Waltz of the snowflakes”:
Enjoy the dancing and the gorgeous music, danced here, by many lovely NYCB ballerinas:
Is it not incredibly poetic and beautiful?
I especially love the footprints left on stage, in the snow, at the end of the scene, such a lovely added geometric sight, to admire as well!
From the second Act, here are a few wonderfully enchanting scenes:
First, let’s watch my very favorite one musically (I am not the only one), featuring “The Sugar Plumb fairy”, and danced here by a beautiful principal from the Royal Ballet:
So joyful, magical, and uplifting, i just love it!
Second, let’s watch “sweets” scenes, all absolute delights:
First, let’s watch the Spanish dance representing “chocolate”, here danced by wonderful artists, on the Mariinsky theater:
Is it not incredibly elegant, graceful, and electric?
Second, let’s watch the Arabian dance representing “coffee”, here danced by my very favorite NYCB dancer of all times, the extraordinary Wendy Whelan:
This is my second favorite part of the Tchaikovsky score, and what dazzling, astounding, mesmerizing dancing!
Third, let’s watch the Chinese dance representing “tea”, here also danced by wonderful artists, on the Mariinsky theater:
Fourth, let’s watch the Russian dance representing “candy canes”, here, danced by great NYCB artists:
Just incredibly athletic, fun, and joyful!
And finally, let’s watch the wonderful dancing going on in the lovely, fairytale-like “Waltz of Flowers” by NYCB artists as well, a few years back:
What more to say: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® is just fabulous, and I wish great success to the “Nutcracker” Family benefit.
And for all of us waiting to see, in person, our families, and Performance Art events, in the future, we still have to be a bit patient, so here is a wonderful song, you will recognize:
Happy holidays everyone!
Until next time friends!
Eternal butterflies 😊