So of course I went yesterday to see the Bolshoi’s Nutcracker, live-streamed into movie theaters all over the world, though, judging by the opening remarks made by announcers and intermission interviews, I think most of the audience was in France. Anyway, there was a pretty good turn-out at the Big Cinema in Manhattan – bigger than turn-outs for the two recorded Emerging Pictures ballet films I saw earlier (the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker and the Bolshoi’s Flames of Paris). Still, the theater wasn’t packed, as it should have been.
Anyway, this was the best Nutcracker I’ve seen so far. I really loved it. I don’t think anyone puts on a show, makes ballet into theater, quite like the Bolshoi. And their dancers have got to be among the most talented in the world. The things they can do… I think every single woman had a point like Veronika Part and every man like David Hallberg.
This production, by Yuri Grigorovich, had no Sugar Plum Fairy, but instead the grand pas de deux was danced by Marie (so-called here instead of Clara), and her nutcracker, turned into a prince in her dream. I like it so much better this way than having a Sugar Plum Fairy. It just makes more sense in the story to have the young girl imagining herself as a grown-up princess. It makes that final pas de deux so much sweeter. And here, they actually get married, Marie and her prince.
The same ballerina – the exquisite Nina Kaptsova (who I remembered immediately from her role in Flames of Paris as the delicate and sympathetic Marquis’s daughter; photo above from dance.net) – danced both the young and grown-up princess versions of Marie and she was surprisingly believable as both. You’d have to have a small dancer with a very youthful physique to be able to dance both parts. (San Francisco Ballet has grown-up Clara dancing the final pdd too, but two different dancers dance the young and older Clara). Kaptsova’s prince was Artem Ovcharenko, who was also very good though he didn’t stand out quite as much as she. For ABT fans, he reminded me a lot of Maxim Beloserkovsky.
What I really, really loved about this Grigorovich production, though, was all of the dancing. It begins with the guests en route to the party, and they dance across the stage. There are really no non-dance moments as there are in most Nutcrackers I’ve seen, where you have the party with children scurrying about and the grown-ups chasing after them and chatting with each other, and Clara and her brother fighting over the little nutcracker, who is actually a doll. Here, the children aren’t really children but dancers in the company (one reason why there’s so much more dancing), and, magnificently, the “toys” are all dancers as well! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real dancer play the little nutcracker doll. And s/he (not sure which gender, as unfortunately the name isn’t listed in the program) was brilliant – one of the best parts of the first Act. A shame there’s no name – unless it’s Anna Proskurnina, who’s listed as Marie’s brother? I’ll have to look it up.
The other two toys in the first Act – Harlequin and Columbine – were danced brilliantly as well, by Vyacheslav Lopatin and Anna Tikhomirova. Those dancers were the most doll-like dolls – with their stunted, sharp staccato movements – that I’ve ever seen.
After the snow scene, Marie and her Nutcracker (now, in his human version, danced by Ovcharenko) didn’t really go to a Land of Sweets but more like a land of toys, as male / female pairs of dolls from various parts of the world entertain them. I went to the performance with my a Chinese friend and of course I was really embarrassed by the Chinese dolls. He thought they were funny though, and we both agreed they were danced very well, by Svetlana Pavlova and Denis Medvedev. I can really see Daniil Simkin dancing this role in ABT’s production, if Ratmansky does it the same way. ( I know Simkin will also have a turn as the Nutcracker Prince / Cavalier at ABT). I also hope Ratmansky doesn’t resort to stereotypes in creating these roles, as virtually every other choreographer has.
As the Indian dolls, Victoria Osipova (relation to Natalia?) and Andrei Bolotin had a bit of a slip and she fell, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. She got up immediately and there was no sign of injury. This is usually the dance most of us in the US know as “coffee” or the Arabian part, but here the costumes are very different – more classical, no bare midriff and tiny top – and the dancing more conservative.
I loved the grand pas de deux. It was both sweet and innocent (like you’d expect of a young girl’s dream of her older self being swept off her feet by a handsome prince), and stunning in its athleticism. Some of those lifts are the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen. At one point, he held her up by her calf and she’s upright, and he carried her all over the stage that way. There are many overhead lifts where he’s holding only her waist, with her legs in the air, feet delicately crossed, and she looks down at him, crossing her hands beatifically. And at the end of the wedding, he carries her off in a cradle lift. So sweet. The solo variations for each were equally breathtaking. Kaptsova had a series of super-fast chaine turns but with all kinds of additional footwork thrown in. Watching her dance, at points I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Oh and also Drosselmeyer was much more of a dance part than most other Drosselmeyers I’ve seen. He was danced very well by Denis Savin.
Overall brilliant production. I feel spoiled now, like I’m never going to be able to see another Nutcracker again. But I will this Thursday – when Ratmansky’s opens at BAM!