Cracking Nuts

The Nutcracker season is over. What performances! Daniela was amazing. I think she saved the best for last. Yesterday's show for a full house at the elegant and regal Hershey Theatre was truly splendid. There were many moving moments (no pun intended), both on and off stage. One of my favorites: after one of the shows Daniela is heading back to the lobby for the photo session. A woman approaches her with her young daughter, three or four years old. Oh, can my girl say hello, etc. Of course... Daniela bends over and tries to engage the tot. The little girl is literally, literally speechless. She just stares, unable to get a sound out, overcome, perhaps, at being face to face with this princess/fairy/dream. How does this happen? The beautiful dancing, of course. The lighting, the tutu, crown, shiny jewels... And the music! Without the music none of this is possible. The music creates the narrative, brings sense to the incredible world of childhood imagination. The music makes truth of the fantasy. This morning in the Times there is a very interesting article by Alastair Macaulay on the Nutcracker, not a review, but a reflection on the work itself and its strange place in American ballet. It is, after all, the cash cow and thus easy to criticize as wildly over-performed, often quite poorly. Art moves forward. The Nutcracker is stagnant. So how can ballet advance when we're stuck on the same old ballet, year after year? Sarah Kaufman, reviewing in the Washington Post Pennsylvania Ballet's performance of Balanchine's Nutracker hits the nail on the head: "Despite the expense and the monumental effort ballet troupes take on to produce a run of shows -- however lucrative they may be -- I suspect that the faux snow and candy fantasia don't do as much as we might wish to hook ticketholders on the art form itself. For if that were the case, after all these years of "Nutcrackers," we'd be experiencing a ballet boom to light up the sky." But Macaulay reminds us that this is not the fault of the ballet itself. And I certainly agree with his belief that Tchaikovsky's s score really is a musical masterpiece. And so is Balanchine's choreography. (Macaulay's article is here.) And let's not forget: Central Pennsylvania is the only youth ballet anywhere authorized to perform the Balanchine version of the Nutcracker. (I was going to say non-professional company, but CPYB is pretty darn professional. And speaking of professionals, Jens Weber was magnificent as Daniela's Cavalier. Jens, wherever your are, thank you so much for being such a wonderful dancer! And for not dropping my girl!) Jens has danced with companies around the world.