Saturday, December 19, 2015

A New Look at The Nutcracker

There're so many versions of 'The Nutcracker' floating around. Much of it is due to its two endings. It can be a traditional classic, a Russian interpretation and modern alternatives including naughty burlesque versions. Mark Morris' retro-modern re-imagining titled 'The Hard Nut' is hilarious. Which one do you like?

In their annual production of 'The Nutcracker', Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) has kept away the Maurice Sendak costumes and Kent Stowell choreography that they've stuck to for 31 years. PNB is breathing new life and fresh perspectives to the festive classic with George Balanchine's 1954 version, and using costumes and sets by Olivia the Pig's creator, Ian Falconer.

Yup. It means PNB has finally put in the Sugarplum Fairy and let her do that pas de deux with Prince Coqueluche. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are danced by children. George Balanchine's version is certainly, how I should I put it, less frightening for the children. There're more cheerful colors swishing around. Maurice Sendak's vision is darker and well, wilder.

I don't think there's a better version of whatever. It's simply which version appeals to the audience. I like both rather equally. Kent Stowell's version had no Sugarplum Fairy or Land of Sweets. Instead, for years, it went with a Turkish palace and Maurice Sendak's quirky worlds. It was fine. I loved it. This year, it was simply refreshing to see the Company dance a classic with bolder costume designs and slighter brighter and more whimsical. Happy to have watched previous staging and this new one. Magic is felt in both productions. 

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