The Nutcracker - American Ballet Theater
Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, Alexander Minz, Nanette Glushak, Gayle Young
I'm not a dancer, former dancer, or big ballet fan -- just a musician who's seen several different "Nutcrackers" and, frankly, not been thrilled by any of them. But this one is thrilling to me, and to my three-year-old daughter!
I've always found "The Nutcracker" boring and syrupy in plot, though I enjoyed much of the music and some of the dancing. Yes, this ABT version has an "adult" theme (or several) -- but I find this enriches the ballet for me and it's interesting to try to figure out who's who and what's what among the characters. (I've really enjoyed reading other reviewers' interpretations!)
Meantime, my three-year-old daughter is enjoying the story from her new-to-ballet point of view. The "adult stuff" goes right over her head. She's interested in the silly people dressed up like mice, the "big machine that makes fog" (the cannon), the Christmas tree that grows, etc. She gets out one pretty dress after another from her closet and tries them all out as "dance suits" as she twirls around the diningroom imitating the dancers' dramatic arm movements.
I find Baryshnikov's choreography fresh, free, and full of life. And full of surprises -- for example, I love the dance where Clara is gracefully tossed from one male dancer, or pair of male dancers, to another. I've read that Baryshnikov felt stifled by the strict classical choreography of the Soviet ballet, and in this "Nutcracker" I see him breaking free of that stifling tradition and creating a beautiful, thought-provoking, and -- yes -- provocative (for adults) new dance.
Baryshnikov's dancing is spectacular -- his strength, form, precision -- and rich in feeling. Kirkland's dancing is near perfection and her portrayal of her awakening feelings for her prince is excellent. The choreography is, again, rich in feeling and meaning and just plain rich, rich, rich.
I'm sure my daughter and I will watch this "Nutcracker" hundreds of times over the years and it will continue to be a rich and fulfilling and inspiring experience.
I say, if you've ever been bored by a "Nutcracker", try this one!