"George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker"
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
New York, NY
December 4, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
The world is a mess. Mother Nature is wreaking havoc around the globe. Man is killing his fellow man. A fiscal cliff looms. But Nutcracker nation, particularly in this the production that showed, from 1954 on, how successful any "Nutcracker" could be, endures, a refuge, an oasis of calm, a snapshot of life as we wish it were.
Arturo Delmoni, exchanging the bow of concertmaster for a conductor’s baton, took the overture at a brisk pace more reminiscent of last minute shoppers looking for deals than dancing sugarplums. But thereafter, the lows were transitory and the highs quite high indeed. Megan Fairchild’s Sugar Plum Fairy, arrived on stage as if blown by a gale, and took charge of her kingdom with large scale authority, only to recede in the pas de deux. The steps were all there and clearly executed. Joaquin De Luz was an attentive partner. But the grandeur of a reigning monarch was absent. Tiler Peck dancing Dewdrop, exulted in playing with variations in scale and speed. Her bold jump gorging on space was followed by tight lacy pointe work and another jump that took off at a different speed and scale, as if on a whim. Revealing a world of possibilities as they occur is the stuff dreams are made of. Adrian Danchig-Waring brought welcome attack and brio to the ‘Hot Chocolate" divertissement.
In the first act, the Christmas tree and Marie’s traveling bed worked their magic, the former reinforced by the snow-covered pines that framed the dancing snowflakes. The party scene, the heart of the ballet, was anchored by two superb performances, both unexpected. The role of Herr Stahlbaum, father of the ballet’s heroine, is usually handed out to someone based on height alone. Ask la Cour makes more of him than anyone I’ve ever seen in the part. He’s an adult, rather than a tall corps kid gotten up to look like one, a strict but caring dad who actually enjoys keeping the children entertained; always present, he’s the animating force behind the Stahlbaum’s successful party.
Robert LaFosse, who used to chew the scenery to a pulp, has learned that less is more. His Herr Drosselmeier is now nuanced and subtle, tolerant of the children’s teasing up to a point, but also willing to put his foot down, socially at ease with the adults, but shrouded in magic that is beyond them. The theme of growth and change from child to adolescent and eventually adult, permeated this performance, in part because Drosselmeier inhabited both ends of the spectrum. But the theme also resonated elsewhere. While fathers and daughters danced together, the boys stood in a circle, waiting, watching and learning. That newly acquired knowledge was put to use in the final dance at this Christmas party as the grandparents, parents and children paired off with their own generations. That dance took place immediately after the boys had, in a moment of parental inattention, run amok. Countering the threat of disorder, dance imposed—and imposes—order on chaos.