Last night my sisters, niece, and I went to Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker, a Russian ballet based on a German story adapted by Frenchman Alexandre Dumas, has become an American Christmas staple. In fact, Ovation TV hosts a Battle of the Nutcrackers, showing a different production of The Nutcracker on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Christmas day, Ovation will air a marathon of all the productions.
The Washington Ballet, under the direction of Septime Webre, features a version of the ballet that reflects American culture and history. Webre’s Nutcracker is set in an 1882 Georgetown mansion based on Dunbarton Oaks. Clara’s dream sequence is anachronistic, in Webre’s words, “transporting us from revolutionary America to 19th century carousels and steamships and 20th century cherry blossoms.”
The battle sequence in Clara’s dream is between the Redcoats (rats) and Revolutionary soldiers. The Nutcracker has George Washington’s head. During one part the dancers wear coonskin caps. Act 2 is set in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. There’s a Humpty Dumpty, a hot air balloon, and a drunken Scot.
I thought the strongest performance was the coffee dance, which became a duet between two Anacostia Indians. It was beautifully danced and was very sensuous. The male dancer at one point is lying on the stage holding the female dancer prone above him. He lifts her, then lowers her. Very sensuous–and requiring tremendous strength.
The child dancers were the real stars of the show, though. They were featured in almost every dance. They were adorable and charming, dressed as snow angels, mice, bees, clowns, even mushrooms. In light of recent events, it was poignant to see young children involved in a production of such beauty, having so much fun.
Here’s a taste of my evening:
What versions of the Nutcracker have you seen? Years ago I saw Barishnikov’s Nutcracker. In his version Clara and the Nutcracker dance the pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier. It is all about a girl blossoming into womanhood and first love. Ah, the Romance!!
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